The Wonderful World of Disney

kissing mickey
My friend and I giving Mickey a kiss, during the band trip to Disney

I’m sure some of my readers have wondered how I would ultimately rank the Disney movies I reviewed.  And I am sure that everyone is aware, there are hundreds of these lists and hundreds of ways to rank favorite Disney movies; this is by no way a definitive guide, just my personal preference at the end of the day.

My Ranking of Disney Movies

Beauty and the Beast live action
Winnie the Pooh
Beauty and the Beast animated
Lion King
Cinderella live action
Robin Hood
Pocahontas
Brave
Mulan
Maleficent
Little Mermaid
Aladdin
Moana
Treasure Planet
Tangled
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tarzan
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Frozen
Lilo and Stitch
Jungle Book animated
Aristocats
101 Dalmatians
Sleeping Beauty
Hercules
Jungle Book live action
Cinderella animated
Peter Pan
Emperor’s New Groove
Sword in the Stone
Snow White

So, the live action Beauty and the Beast tops the list; are we honestly surprised, lol?  I still love Winnie the Pooh, so not terribly surprising that I placed it second.  I’m more surprised at how high I placed Moana, considering I’ve watched it only twice.  But Moana is such an awesome protagonist.  And Tangled beat out Hunchback; again, due to it has a more pleasant storyline.  And of course, Snow White beats out any movie I decided to not review.  I know I have friends who have different opinions.  And that’s what makes it fun to debate!

A few other favorites:

Favorite Soundtrack: Lion King (mind you, if I’m listening to my Disney playlist, I will inevitably want to watch whatever movie I just heard part of the soundtrack for.  Listening to Mulan‘s score, I want to watch Mulan, etc.)
Favorite Princess: Belle (again, not a surprise, see my original post on the movie, lol)
Favorite Prince: I want Adam from the live action Beauty and the Beast, with his well rounded backstory.
Favorite Hero: Robin Hood (this version is the paragon of good)
Best Sidekick: Genie (he supported Aladdin so much, and Robin Williams was genius)

When we get to Best or Most Evil Villain, it becomes more of a discussion:

There’s the evil queen from Snow White; she wanted to kill a girl because she was prettier. Not really a villain in Sword in the Stone. Izma, I always found her more funny. Hook…well, if I had an annoying child taunting me for years, I’d challenge him to a duel. Doesn’t excuse attempting to drown Tiger Lily or blowing up the kids. Lady Tremaine is horrible and abusive to Cinderella. Shere Kahn, he’s a tiger, he’s most likely going to try to eat a boy. Hades, is hilarious. But still tries to take over the world; I don’t think we want a world ruled by Hades.

Maleficent, in the animated, wanted to kill a child because she was snubbed. Very much redeemed in the live action. Stephan was a jerk. Curella wants to murder innocent puppies. Edgar in Aristocats, not high on the “evil scale.” No one villain in Lilo and Stitch, they’re all redeemable.

Hans, let’s discuss. Think for a minute (if Disney would go so far), if his plan had gone through. Anna would have been married to someone who didn’t love her, who only wanted her for her throne (at the very least, she’d be ignored, quite possibly abused). He intended to kill her sister. (Once Upon a Time delves into his villainy a little further). Rourke was a typical villain. Wanted to kill a whole race of innocent people, all for money. Clayton was a jerk.

Frollo, very evil. Murdered an innocent woman, then wanted to drop a helpless baby down a well, in winter. Abuses the boy. Lusts after a gypsy woman. And uses religion as an excuse. Mother Gothel, again, abusive. Selfish. Silver from Treasure Planet is redeemable for his relationship with Jim. Can’t really count Te Kā as a villain in the end. Jafar is nasty. Ursula, well, I’d love to play that role because it would be fun. But she also wants Triton’s throne, is not above dirty dealing to get it, including hypnotizing a man into marriage. (That could go so badly).

Shan Yu does kill an entire village and probably would do that to every village. Mor’du, not exactly the main conflict in the movie. Ratcliffe needs punched. Willing to kill an entire village of people for his gold lust. Prince John is more laughable in this version of Robin Hood.

Still love Scar, and a lot of that has to do with Jeremy Irons. Played brilliantly. But, kills his brother, attempts to kill his nephew (more than once), turns on those who supported his power play and a few deleted scenes had him making moves on Nala. Gaston is the picture of arrogance. He makes it very clear that he wants Belle for his wife, whether she agrees or not (again, would not end well if he won).

Ultimate contenders are Lady Tremaine, the Evil Queen, Hans, Frollo, Shan Yu, Ratcliffe, or Scar.  Going to have to go with Frollo; he terrified me as a kid.

 

Again, if you have any questions, let me know!  Any other favorites you want to know?  Let me know your favorites!

Next Time: Enchanted

“That Voice Inside is Who You Are”

Moana

The movie exposes us to the ancient Polynesian culture (Polynesia incorporates Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti and other Pacific Islands), exploring the “Long Pause” in Polynesian voyaging. Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho voices titular Moana (meaning “ocean”), Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson voices Maui, and Alan Tudyk (who was just Weasel) is Heihei the chicken. I heard the soundtrack (Lin-Manuel Miranda, famous for the Broadway hit Hamilton, co-wrote the songs) for months before I ever saw the movie thanks to the kids’ zone across from the store I work at. And I’m going to go ahead and apologize if I misspell anything.

The prologue introduces the legend of Te Fiti, the mother island emerging from the ocean. Her heart could create life and she shared it with the world. Years pass and the demi-god of the wind and sea, Maui; a trickster, a warrior, and shape-shifter, stole Te Fiti’s heart. “Without her heart, Te Fiti began to crumble, giving birth to a terrible darkness.” Te Kā, a demon of earth and fire, blocks Maui’s escape. He’s knocked from the sky, never to be seen; his magical fish hook, which gives him the power to shape-shift, was lost to the sea. The heart, a green stone, is also lost. Little Moana is intrigued by the story, while the other children are frightened. Her grandmother explains that the darkness has been spreading for a thousand years, draining the life from island after island. “But, one day, the heart will be found by someone who will journey far beyond our reef. Find Maui. Deliver him across the great ocean to restore Te Fiti’s heart and save us all.”

Moana’s father (the chief) enters and warns the children that no one goes beyond the reef. They are safe on their island. There are no monsters and no darkness, he soothes. His mother insists the legends are true. While they debate, little Moana wanders down to the shore. She finds a baby turtle stuck on shore and carries a leaf, so the baby will have shade and shoos away birds that would eat the morsel. In thanks, the ocean parts and plays with the small child. It gives Moana a green stone, but she drops is when her father plucks her from the water. “It’s time you knew the village of Motunui is all you need,” he tells his daughter, who will one day be chief. But she’s still called to the water and her father has to keep retrieving her, insisting she stays on the ground, “happiness is Where You Are.” He schools her on the traditions of their village; all they need is provided on the island. Yet his mother still dances next to the water and teaches her granddaughter that while she is her father’s daughter, stubborn and proud, a voice inside may give her a new direction. Moana must discover who she is.

Her father takes Moana to the top of a sacred mountain, showing her a stack of stones, one set down by every chief. When her time comes, she will place her own stone on top. She needs to be who the people need. Moana accepts her duty and starts advising people. Except their harvest is poor. Coconuts turn black. There are no fish; they’ve tried every spot. Moana suggests beyond the reef and the chief still refuses; no one goes beyond the reef. Her mother counsels Moana; her father is hard on her because he was her years ago. He ventured beyond the reef with his best friend, but they encountered a storm and the friend drowned. Her father can save Moana by keeping her on the island. “Sometimes who we wish we were, what we wish we could do, is just not meant to be.”

But, as hard as Moana tries, she’s always led back to the water, always longs to be there. “It calls me/ and no one knows/ how far it goes.” She can try to live in her role, but he ocean still calls. So she takes a canoe out, determined to see How Far I’ll Go; “there’s more beyond the reef.” However, her canoe capsizes in the rough water at the reef; Moana almost drowns. When she collapses back on shore, her grandmother is waiting. Moana claims that her father was right. Instead, her grandmother leads her to a covered cave to learn another legend of their people. Bang the drum, her grandmother instructs, and find out who you were meant to be. Inside, there are larger boats. Once the drum sounds, the sails tell the story of how Motunui was founded; We Know the Way, they said. “We were voyagers!” Moana exclaims. Her grandmother explains further; they stopped when boats stopped coming back, because of Maui and the spreading darkness. She shows Moana that the darkness has come to their island. Then reminds her of the legend that foretold someone would venture beyond the reef, find Maui, and restore the heart of Te Fiti. Grandma gives Moana the green stone, reminding her that the ocean chose her.

Moana rushes to the council meeting, insisting they can stop the darkness by finding Maui. They were once voyagers, they can be so again. The chief has had enough. He marches off to burn the boats. They’re called back to the village; his mother is dying. Grandma whispers to Moana “Go.” She rushes out, her mother helps her pack, and she loads one of the boats she discovered. The spirit of a sting ray (her grandmother had said she would come back as one and bore a tattoo of one) leads her over the reef and “soon I’ll know, How Far I’ll Go.”

screaming chickenThe next morning Moana discovers a stowaway, Heihei the chicken (and the funny scene of the screaming and coconut). The journey is not easy. Her boat turns over again in a storm and she asks the ocean for help. She wakes on a shore – the island where Maui has been marooned. Moana meets the demi-god who insists that he stole the heart to help mortals, he’s their hero. He brought them fire and the breeze and the sun. You’re Welcome. Then he traps Moana in a cave and tries to steal her boat. Moana escapes and the ocean puts her on the boat, even after Maui tries to throw her off a few times. The stone is a magnet for danger, he claims. And they’re soon set upon by the Kakamora (which look like evil coconut people). Moana further demonstrates her cleverness and her determination to see the mission through.

She persuades Maui to do his duty and return the heart; he’d be a hero again. Fine, they find his hook first, then they’ll return the heart. In the meantime, Moana asks Maui to teach her to sail. “It’s called way finding, princess,” Maui corrects. Moana states she’s the daughter of a chief, not a princess. “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you are a princess.” (Leaning on the fourth wall, ey, Disney? While Moana is not in the “official” princess line-up, she is seen alongside the other princesses in clips from Wreck-It Ralph 2, and fits the same criteria as Pocahontas {daughter of the chief, with an animal sidekick, saves her people}, who is part of the “official” line-up. I just thought it was funny that they bring it up in the movie and call attention what everyone notices about Disney’s princesses.)

The pair must sail to Lalotai, the Realm of Monsters in order to retrieve Maui’s hook from Tamatoa, the collector crab. He enjoys talking about himself and how Shiny he is [I dislike this song, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the soundtrack; I understand why, but still, it’s weird.] Moana distracts the crab with a fake stone so she and Maui can escape. His shape shifting powers are on the fritz, though we do briefly see him transform into Sven. Maui tries to leave the mission again. He explains how he came to be a demi-god; he was born mortal, but his parents threw him into the sea. The gods found him and saved him, gifting the magical fish hook. He uses his powers to help mankind, hoping they’ll love him. But it was never enough. Now he’s not sure he’s worthy to be saved. Moana encourages him; the powers and the hook don’t make Maui, he does. Further encouraged by his mini-me tattoo, he gets his mojo back.

They finally reach Te Fiti and Maui goes to return the heart, but the demon, Te Kā throws fireballs and clashes with Maui’s hook. The boat is pushed back and Maui’s hook is cracked. “Without my hook, I am nothing!” Maui shouts, and leaves. Moana now believesi am moana that the mission is truly hopeless and begs the ocean to choose someone else. The spirit of her grandmother comforts her; she should have never put all the pressure on Moana. If she wants to return home, her grandmother will help. “The people you love will change you, the things you have learned will guide you,” does Moana know who she is? “I am a girl who loves my island, I am the girl who loves the sea, it calls me.” Spirits of the old voyagers appear around her. “And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me…come what may, I know the way. I Am Moana!” [that song gives me goosebumps] She swims down to the stone and when she pops back up, the spirits have vanished. But she knows what to do. She repairs her boat and sets off for Te Fiti again.

She dodges Te Kā’s attacks, seems to go for one opening, then doubles back through the other. But a wave capsizes her again, yet Maui flies to the rescue. He’ll distract Te Kā, so Moana can get to Te Fiti. But when she stands on top of the one island, there’s only the outline of a woman below. Then she notices the swirl on her stone matches one on Te Kā’s chest. She shows the stone and asks the ocean to “let her come to me.” The ocean splits and Te Kā rushes to the small young woman. “I know your name/ they have stolen the heart from inside you/ but this does not define you/ this is not who you are/ you Know Who You Are.” Te Kā pauses in front of Moana. The woman places the heart in the center of the spiral. Greenery overtakes the lava stone and Te Fiti emerges. She smiles down at the little heroine. Moana and Maui are brought before her; Maui apologizes and he receives a new hook (the old one was destroyed while he fought Te Kā). Te Fiti gifts a new boat to Moana. The goddess then lays down and reverts back to a beautiful island.

te_fiti_&_moana

Moana offers that Maui could return with her to Motunui. He won’t, but she’ll see him around. He gains a new tattoo of her (he had earlier explained that he receives a new tattoo when he’s earned them). Moana returns home to her island and her pleased parents. Her father remarks that going past the reefs suits Moana and they pull out the old boats. Moana teaches what she’s learned of way finding and they set sail again (a shell sits on top the rock pile on the mountain).

I enjoyed this movie a lot; the story was different, it showcased another culture that I have developed an interest in (due to Hobbit and Lord of the Rings being filmed in New Zealand and the country and people showcased in the behind the scenes features, and starting to watch the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 series). Moana is an amazing character, well rounded and developed. While she loves the water and it calls to her, she is willing to do her duty and doesn’t complain. There is value in serving others and putting them ahead of yourself (or as Spock would say, “The good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one.” Though there are times when that can be broken, as all rules are subject to). She goes on a physical journey as well as a personal journey. She stands up to demi-god Maui (not my favorite character, until we got deeper; he was very brash to start with, almost Gaston-like). The grandmother was sassy; I like sassy characters. Her death was sad, but did not leave me a sobbing mess.

I didn’t see the ending as a twist so much; Te Kā appeared more as a guardian to Te Fiti. But the scene was beautiful and how the goddess appeared as balancing elements. I enjoyed the bulk of the soundtrack, typically the songs that featured Moana. Not a huge fan of You’re Welcome, again because of the bragging, and Shiny was just weird.
So, that’s it! I’ll be moving on from animated Disney movies, after a wrap up blog next time. A few live action Disney films, mainly Pirates of the Caribbean, then onto some other action-adventure categories. But first, weigh in on what is your favorite Disney animated film (or live-action adaptation). And your favorite Disney hero/princess and villain (i.e., who do you love to hate, or who do you root for, or who do you think is the most well-developed). Heck, what’s your favorite Disney soundtrack?

Coming Soon: Enchanted (could count as a Disney princess movie; we’ll get into that during the post)

“You Can Fix This Fixer Upper Up With a Little Bit of Love.”

Frozen

That movie that everyone couldn’t stop talking about for months. Ranked as the highest-grossing animated film of all time (Lion King holds that distinction in traditional animation), ninth highest-grossing film of all time, highest-grossing film of 2013, and currently fourth highest-grossing Disney film, behind the new Star Wars movies and new Avengers movies. It won two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (Let It Go), a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film. On the one hand, I agree it has a story that departs from typical Disney. My (distant) cousin also designed young Anna. On the other hand, why did kids love this more than other movies? Why did everything go Frozen-crazy for so long?

Proceeding…the film is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Snow Queen, a darker story (aren’t they all?) with the titular Snow Queen as the villainess. The names of the four main characters are inspired by the storyteller’s name: Hans, Kristoff, Anna, Sven (read them quickly together). Kristen Bell (part of several television series, includng the titular Veronica Mars) voices Anna and Idina Menzel (she won acclaim for premiering the role of Elphaba for Wicked on Broadway) voices Elsa. Josh Gad is Olfa, Alan Tudyk (among some other voice acting roles, he’s in Knight’s Tale and the sci-fi show Firefly) is the Duke of Weaselton, sorry, Weselton, and Ciarán Hinds (an Irish actor who has appeared in several period pieces, and Game of Thrones) pops up as Pabbie the troll.

The opening music has a different tone than the rest of the soundtrack; inspired by Scandinavian culture and indigenous chanting (Fun fact: Cantus, the group that performs the piece, is all female). Then we’re into Frozen Heart as men cut ice, aided by a young Kristoff and Sven. My question is, why are they there? Is Kristoff’s father an ice cutter? And no one seems to be paying to this little boy. Then we come to young anna and elsathe palace and meet little princesses Elsa and Anna. Anna begs her older sister to “do the magic!” so they can play in snow. They sneak to a ballroom and Elsa freezes the floor. We briefly glimpse Olaf, who likes warm hugs. But Anna goes too fast jumping from snow mound to snow mound that Elsa creates. When Elsa trips, her shot goes too high and hits Anna. Their parents rush in from the commotion, their father demanding “Elsa, what have you done?” and they immediately head out of the capital, Elsa still trailing ice.

Kristoff and Sven spot the royal family on their venture to the mountain and look on. A collection of rocks turns out to be a troll community (whom promptly adopt the wayward boy and reindeer). The leader can cure Anna, this time; the head can be persuaded, but a shot to the heart is more dangerous. But Anna can no longer know about Elsa’s powers; her memories are changed to remove the magic – but keep the fun. Pabbi did ask if Elsa had been born or cursed with the powers – she had been born with them. Then he warns Elsa that while there is beauty in her powers, there is great danger as well. She must learn to control them, for fear will be her enemy. Her father’s response: lock her away and limit all human contact, even with her sister. I agree with most fans that this is just about the dumbest thing a parent can do. Bottle all your feelings, be scared of an integral part of yourself, and separate you from everyone else, including a beloved younger sibling. Not a smart move.

We watch the princesses grow up during Do You Wanna Build a Snowman? [I like about two songs from this film; this is not one of them]. Anna pleads with Elsa, “we used to be best buddies.” The whole time, Elsa grows more afraid of herself. Their parents eventually take a trip, and their ship is overpowered by a storm. Anna must attend the funeral alone. Afterwards, she sits outside her sister’s door; it’s just the two of them now. On the other side of the door, Elsa is in the same position, with her room looking like a snow blast went off.

Now, there is a fan theory floating around, and I honestly don’t remember which parts have been confirmed or not, but Frozen is connected to other Disney movies. It is tangled cameogenerally postulated that the queen of Arendelle and queen of Corona are sisters. And the king and queen of Arendelle were heading to Rapunzel and Eugene’s wedding when their ship went down. This is supported by Rapunzel and Eugene showing up at Elsa’s coronation (if you’re watching closely, it is distinctly them) and further supported by Frozen releasing three years after Tangled, and Elsa comes of age three years after her parents’ death. It is further theorized that the Arendelle ship is the shipwreck Ariel is exploring at the beginning of The Little Mermaid. This stems from the fact that both original fairytales were written by Hans Christen Anderson and there is a statue of a mermaid in Denmark, which lies along the route Anna and Elsa’s parents would have taken from Norway to Germany (Rapunzel being a German tale). Another option is that the Arendelle ship was blown way off course and ended up finally sinking off the coast of Africa and Anna and Elsa’s parents are in fact Tarzan’s parents, making Tarzan their brother. (Would that make him Rapunzel’s cousin as well?) I side more with the Tangled connection since we actually see the Corona couple at the coronation.

There is another backstory that has been created for Anna and Elsa’s mother. The first half of season four of Once Upon a Time involves characters from Frozen. Here, Elsa and Anna’s mother is named Gerda, and she has two older sisters, Ingrid and Helga. Ingrid has ice powers, which explains how Elsa has them. Without getting too into (and spoiling) the whole plot, events happen that cause Gerda to become queen. I liked the way Once Upon a Time handled Frozen, particularly examining Elsa’s bond with Anna and her new bonding with Emma.

ouat-frozen

Continuing on with the original animated movie: three years pass and Elsa is now of age to assume the crown. Time to open the gates For the First Time in Forever, after Anna is woken (looking like every other woman when she first wakes up). Anna is excited and wishes the gates would remain open; she’s also hoping to meet “the one,” which, considering she’s been left alone and possibly read dozens of romances, not a completely crazy dream (unrealistic, yes). Elsa is nervous, practicing removing the gloves that have been a protective layer for years, urging herself to be the good girl. While exploring outside, a horse knocks Anna into a boat, but she is gallantly rescued by a dashing prince, Hans of the Southern Isles. Anna is adorably awkward, then has to rush off to the coronation. Elsa manages to get through it without revealing her powers, though it was a near thing.

Later, at the ball, the sisters awkwardly stand next to each other. They no longer have the rapport they shared as youngsters. Though they share a love of chocolate. They start bonding, but Anna is soon swept off her feet by Prince Hans and the couple harmonizes that Love is an Open Door. At the end, they share the same crazy thought: “Hey, let’s get married!” They reenter the ballroom to ask for Elsa’s blessing. Elsa refuses, calling out Disney’s age-old cliché: “You can’t marry someone you just met.” Anna insists it’s true love and argues that Elsa wouldn’t know anything about that since she’s shut everyone out of her life. Anna pushes the issue with her sister, pulling off one of the gloves. In confusion and annoyance, Elsa sends a blast of ice. Weaselton, sorry, Weselton immediately declares sorcery and calls Elsa a monster. Elsa flees and is overwhelmed by the crowd outside. At first, they’re kind and adoring, but once she freezes a fountain, they turn on her. Elsa continues her flight, pausing for a moment at the fjord, but her powers allow her to freeze a path. She runs to the mountains, unknowingly leaving a path of ice that freezes the whole capital. Anna and Hans had followed her. Anna insists that she caused Elsa’s panic; her sister isn’t dangerous and would never hurt her, so she should be the one to go after the queen. Anna leaves Hans in charge.

Elsa is making her way up North Mountain and ponders everything that had brought her to this point. She finally had to let some of her emotions out, after trying for so long. “Don’t let them in/ don’t let them see/ be the good girl you always have to be/ conceal, elsa dressdon’t feel/ don’t let them know. Well now they know!” She Let[s] it Go. She’s able to use her power freely; and it’s beautiful. She creates a magnificent ice castle and to match her new mood, she creates a new (iconic) dress. The cold never bothered her, so she’s comfortable where she is. She’s never going back and tosses away her crown. According to Disney trivia, this song was the turning point the in the development of the film. At this point, the Snow Queen was not longer the villain. The song has also topped the Billboard list and that was the only song we heard on repeat for about a year, I think (Piano Guys did a beautiful crossover between this song and Vivaldi’s Winter; as I have often found, I prefer Piano Guys’ covers to the original). It was during this song that I figured out Idnia Menzel voiced Elsa, because the singing tone matches Defying Gravity from Wicked. I personally believe that the lyrics to this song are an aid to those who bottle up their emotions and worry about being themselves.

Meanwhile, Anna is still searching for her sister. Her horse bolts, leaving her freezing. She finds Oakens’ outpost and manages a costume change and meets ice deliverer Kristoff. After Kristoff is sent to sleep in the barn, Anna approaches him (with the supplies he needed) and requests/demands he take her to the North Mountain where the worst of the storm is, figuring that is where Elsa will be. Kristoff reluctantly agrees. He sides with Elsa, that you cannot marry some guy you’ve just met. Before their conversation can go much further, a pack of wolves attacks. Anna is helpful in chasing some of the pack away, but they’re still forced to jump a gorge, letting the sled fall. Anna understands if afterwards, Kristoff doesn’t want to help anymore. Sven persuades Kristoff, and they set off further up the mountain. Along the way, they encounter a talking snowman, Olaf, who likes warm hugs. Elsa made him, a reminder of her childhood with Anna. The little snowman dreams of what will happen to him during Summer. [Personally, I agree with Kristoff, let’s tell him what happens! I also find Olaf annoying; he’s the tagalong who never shuts up.]

Back in Arendelle, Hans is assisting the people when Anna’s horse returns without its rider. He wants to head out and calls for volunteers to help find the sisters. Weasel sends two of his burly guards, with instructions to put an end to winter (meaning, kill the queen. Buddy, that’s treason).

When Anna and Kristoff finally meet with Elsa, she still wants to be left alone. It’s for Anna’s protection, she doesn’t want to hurt her sister (again). However, she did not realize that she had caused eternal winter back in Arendelle. To her, this is just another reason why she should be alone and she hasn’t gained control of herself or her powers. Her emotions spiral and she shoots another blast, unknowingly hitting Anna. Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf leave, firmly persuaded by a new giant snowman. More like, chased off the mountain. Kristoff notices that Anna’s hair is turning more white and decides it’s time to introduce her to his love expert friends; they’ve had dealings with that sort of thing before. His love expert friends are the trolls who took him in. They’re so excited that Kristoff has brought a girl home, they at first don’t listen to the pair’s protestations, declaring that love is power and can help both Fixer Uppers. When Anna collapses, Pabbi comes out. But this time, the power struck her heart, only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. Both Anna and Kristoff figure a kiss from Hans will do the trick.

Hans and his volunteers find Elsa’s new castle and battle her giant guard. A few manage to duck, Weasel’s two guys aiming to kill. Elsa defends herself and almost kills both attackers. Hans urges her to not turn into the monster people believe she is, be better. He knocks a bolt out of the way, but it severs the chandelier, knocking Elsa out when she dives out of the way. She wakes up in a jail cell, chained, her hands manacled. Hans informs her that Anna hasn’t returned, but they all need her to unfreeze the capital. Elsa doesn’t know how.

Kristoff and Anna arrive at the castle; Kristoff stays outside and the servants take Anna to Hans. She begs for a kiss, explaining that Elsa froze her heart, by accident. A act of true love will thaw it. He makes her comfortable and leans in…only to say, “if only there was someone out there who loved you.” He extinguishes the candles and fire and reveals that it was all a ploy. As thirteenth in line for his own throne, the only way he would become a king was to marry. Nothing was known about Elsa, but Anna – young and eager, it was easy. He originally intended for an accident to befall Elsa after his marriage to Anna. Now, he will just have to kill her and that should bring back summer, making him a hero. He leaves Anna alone and informs the council that she is dead, only after they managed to say their vows, making him the ruler of Arendelle. His first act, execute Elsa for treason for murdering her sister.

In Elsa’s cell, ice spreads and she manages to break free. She sets off across the frozen fjord. A storm swirls around her. Sven is trying to persuade Kristoff to go back, for Anna. When he catches sight of the storm, they take off. Olaf makes his way through the castle and happens upon Anna’s room, lighting a fire to keep her warm. Anna urges him to stop, he’ll melt. “Some people are worth melting for.” He also figures that Kristoff is the one who loves Anna, not Hans. The blond man raced to get her to the castle, and sees that he is racing back. They escape the rapidly freezing palace (Anna slides like a lady, straightening her skirts after) and Anna makes her way to Kristoff. Hans finds Elsa, telling her that it was too late to save Anna; “she’s dead because of you.” Elsa collapses in grief, which freezes the center of the storm (snowflakes are frozen in place). Anna and Kristoff see each other and Kristoff races to Anna, but Anna hears a sword and turns to see Hans behind her sister, ready to strike. She makes a decision and steps between the two, stopping the sword as she freezes solid. Elsa turns around and sees the new statue of her sister and hugs her, crying, as Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf look on.

anna-save-elsa

Anna starts to slowly thaw. The sisters embrace, Elsa in disbelief that Anna would sacrifice herself for her. Anna simply responds “I love you.” Olaf realizes “an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Love. That gives Elsa an idea. Armed with new knowledge and a reprise of the opening track playing, she unfreezes Arendelle. Luckily, the heroes were standing over a locked ship. Olaf starts melting, but Elsa gives him “my own personal flurry.” Hans gets up and Kristoff starts marching towards him. Anna stops him. She strides over to Hans, tells him “the only frozen heart around here is yours.” Turns, then turns back and punches him in the face. Brilliant!

Hans will be returned to the Lonely Isles to face his twelve older brothers. Weaselton will no longer be allowed to trade with Arendelle for his actions against the crown. Kristoff is the new official Ice Master for the capital and Anna gifts him a new sled (keeping her promise to replace the one that burned). He’s so happy, he could kiss Anna. May he? He may (they’re adorable together). Elsa makes a pond for everyone to skate on in their courtyard and she and Anna declare they are never closing the gates again.

A short, Frozen Fever was released in 2015 alongside the live action Cinderella film. A sequel to the full-length movie is due out this November.

I enjoyed the “Hans is actually the bad guy” twist; I believed he was good right until he betrayed Anna. While she was falling in love with Kristoff, I thought maybe Hans would pair with Elsa. But this made it a more complex story, which is good. Again, I appreciated both Elsa and Kristoff warning that one cannot marry someone they just met. The relationship between Kristoff and Anna was built on working together and accepting each other’s flaws. The relationship between Elsa and Anna was wonderfully done; they were adorable as kids and understandably awkward once they were in the same room again, having grown up separated. (And again, horrible decision on their parents. Anna could have helped Elsa so much). And I appreciated that the “act of true love,” was between sisters, because that is a very strong bond. Siblings give their loyalty to each other first. A partner may come and take their own place, but a sibling grew up with you and knows all your secrets.

Overall, not my favorite soundtrack; it’s cute and fun, but doesn’t have quite the depth that Disney has shown (Lion King for example). It is a fun movie, though it took me a while; I tend to not be eager to jump on band wagons. I resisted Harry Potter when the books first came out because I didn’t want to read what everyone else was reading just because everyone else was reading it. But it is a cute story and I certainly want to see more of Anna and Elsa.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.  This is shockingly, my thirtieth blog (more like, how did I get this far?)  There’s still lots more to come!

Next Time: The last Disney animated film I’ll be blogging, Moana

Fanfic Recommendations:

Burning in the Fire of a Thousand Smiles by qqueenofhades is a modern Alternate Universe story involving the Once Upon a Time characters, pairing Emma with Killian and does include Elsa as one of Emma’s friends.

“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

“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

“I Know Every Mile, Will Be Worth My While”

First, let me apologize for the delay; working retail at this time of year occupies more of my time, and with the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I decided to forego posting.  I’ll probably only post once a week until the new year, and most likely will not post the week of Christmas.  I hope everyone has a good holiday season and find moments for peace and quiet.  Now, on with the show!

Hercules

Based on the Greek mythological tale, it features Tate Donovan as the voice of adult Hercules (and my mind has just been blown because I figured out he plays [Spoiler Alert!] Mac’s father aka the Oversight of Phoenix in the rebooted MacGyver series. I just kept repeating “What!” when I read that.) Danny DeVito is his trainer, Phil, and Susan Egen is Megara.

baby hercules and pegasus
They’re adorable as babies

The film opens with a dusty narrator, but he’s interrupted by the Muses who spice up the prologue of Zeus trapping the Titans and give a gospel flair. Years and years later, Zeus and his wife Hera are having a party for their baby boy, Hercules. Their gift to their son is baby Pegasus. Zeus’s brother, Hades, ruler of the Underworld, stops by for a moment, but returns to his domain for a meeting with the Fates (three [ugly] women who control the lifelines of mortals). He has a plan to release the Titans and take down Zeus, so he can rule, but wants to know from the Fates if Hercules will spoil everything. Short answer, yes. So, for his plan to be a success, he sends his stooges, Pain and Panic (little demons? I don’t know what they are; I thought they were funny as a kid) to kidnap Hercules, feed him a potion to make him mortal, and kill him. They fail at giving baby Hercules every drop of the potion, so he retains his god-like strength, and even ties the shape shifting demons into a knot, laughing all the while. Fearing Hades’s wrath at their failure, Pain and Panic decide not to mention it to the god. An older couple take Hercules in and raise him.

Eighteen years later, we check back in with Hercules, a gangly teenager who can’t control his strength, causing accidents and damage, and is thus deemed a freak by everyone else. Taking pity on their son, his parents reveal that he was adopted and he wore an insignia of the gods around his neck when they found him. He will Go the Distance [Cross Country runners have adopted this as an anthem] and find out where he belongs. The answers lie at the temple for Zeus, which springs to life for Hercules. The statue informs Hercules of his true heritage, but he cannot join the gods on Mount Olympus as a mortal; he must perform an act of true heroism for his god status to be reinstated. To aid his son on his journey, Zeus reunites him with Pegasus and sends him to Phil, a trainer of heroes. Hercules vows “I won’t let you down, father!”

Unfortunately, Phil’s island is a mess and he’s retired. A little bolt of lightning persuades Phil to take on Hercules, who is his One Last Hope. He’s dreamed of training a hero so great, the gods will put a constellation of him in the sky and everyone can say, “that’s Phil’s boy.” Hercules starts clumsy, but he bulks up over the years and soon passes the courses with ease. To prove his mettle, Phil takes him to Thebes. Along the way, they hear a damsel in distress. A centaur (which I thought centaurs were good?) has a damsel in his clutches. Megara, Meg by her friends, if she had any, is sassy and spunky. “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this, have a nice day.” Hercules does defeat the centaur, but he gets tongue-tied around Meg (understandable considering his interaction with females prior to this would have been minimal) Phil and Pegasus drag him away and Meg meets with Hades. She works for the god of the Underworld and he is not pleased with Pain and Panic when he discovers Hercules is still alive. He has a new plan to get the strong man out of his way so he can reorganize the cosmos.

Thebes is a city in chaos; constant natural disasters and monster attacks. According to Phil, a good place to test out Hercules as a hero. He gets his first chance from Meg, who comes running up to him, spouting a story of two boys trapped under a rock. Hercules saves the kids easily, but moving the rock uncovered a hydra. He quickly learns, after being eaten and slicing his way out, that cutting one head off just makes three more grow in its place, so he soon has a mass of heads ready to chomp him. He finally defeats the hydra by causing a rock slide. He’s buried for a moment and Hades is gleeful, but Hercules prevails. After that, he turns Zero to Hero [my favorite song from the movie]; he defeats any monster Hades throws at him and racks up crowds of adoring fans. However, while Hercules reenacts his tales for his father, he’s disappointed to find out he still hasn’t become a true hero and cannot join Zeus on Olympus.

Hades is desperate. He wants Meg to discover whether “wonder boy” has any weaknesses. He owns her; she sold her soul to him to save her boyfriend, but the boyfriend was scum and ran off with another woman. If Meg does this task for Hades, the god will grant her her freedom. She persuades Hercules to play hooky for a day with her (the lion skin Hercules is wearing at the beginning of the scene is Scar from Lion King). The couple has a lovely date, interrupted at the end by Pegasus and Phil. Meg Won’t Say I’m in Love, completely different from most heroines in a Disney movie. Hades appears and doesn’t buy that Hercules doesn’t have a weakness, then realizes, Meg is the man’s weakness. Phil overhears Meg and Hades talking and has to break the news to Hercules. The young man is so in love, he won’t hear it and Phil quits.

Pain and Panic distract and tie up Pegasus so Hades has the man alone. He offers a deal; Hercules gives up his strength for the next twenty-four hours, and Hades will set Meg free (he has the woman bound and gagged). Hercules agrees upon the condition that Meg will be safe. His heart is broken when Hades reveals that Phil spoke the truth. Hades is off to free the Titans, Hercules and Meg are both crying over their heartbreak (Meg’s upset that she’s caused Hercules pain).

While the Titans attack Olympus, Hades sends a Cyclops to take care of Hercules. Even without his strength, he still faces the monster. Meg frees Pegasus and they retrieve Phil to help Hercules. A bit of a pep talk from his trainer, and Hercules defeats the Cyclops, but Meg pushes him out of the way from a falling pillar. Hercules’s strength returns, since Hades’s deal was broken. He rushes to Olympus to save the gods; the Titans are defeated, but Hades gets one last gloat in about Meg. The hero arrives just after Meg’s life line is cut by the Fates. He ventures to the Underworld to save her, making a new deal. A trade; his soul for Meg’s. Hades agrees, but knows there’s a loophole; Hercules won’t survive the swim in the River of Souls; Hades will have both of their souls. As the Fates go to cut his life line, the scissors won’t cut, the line turns gold. Meaning, Hercules is a god. He strides out of the river, pushes Hades in, and returns Meg’s soul to her body.

Hercules-Meg

The pair are whisked to Olympus, where the gods are ready to welcome Hercules to their ranks. His willing sacrifice of his life for Meg’s was the act of a true hero. He gives up god hood to remain with Meg; they finally share a kiss. A final chorus cheers and declare A Star is Born. A constellation of Hercules is flung among the stars and Phil gets his hero.

Since my interests center primarily on British myths, I am not as familiar with Greek myths (I have a friend who has more of an interest and according to her, Disney tamed down the story; but what do we expect from Disney?) The movie has a good message about what a true hero is and Hercules doesn’t let the fame go to his head, which I appreciate; the writers ensured the Hercules remained a truly “good guy.” I remember there was a cartoon that ran for a while on Disney Channel. For me, Hercules wouldn’t rank as high as say, Lion King, but I do appreciate now how sassy Meg is. She is a more modern woman and I love how she is able to take care of herself. She won’t fall into the stereotypical role of being helpless. Yes, she falls for Hercules, but because he is genuinely caring and nice. The Muses are fun. So, overall, an enjoyable watch, but not one I’m going to rush to add to my DVD collection.

I welcome questions or comments.  What’s your opinion on Meg and Hercules?

Next Time: Mulan

“But the Sun Rollin’ High, Through the Sapphire Sky”

The Lion King

One of the top grossing animated films of all time, it won Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Can You Feel the Love Tonight at the Academy Awards; and was scored by legend Hans Zimmer (he’d later score Pirates of the Caribbean) and lyrics were by Tim Rice (who has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber) and songs by Elton John [I most strongly connect Elton John to this movie, even though I’m sure I listened to his music growing up.] It ranks pretty high on my list of Disney favorites. The artistry is beautiful, the songs are fun, it’s a complex story (inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet [I am a bad English major and not terribly familiar with Hamlet; I saw one updated version performed by David Tenannt]) and a wonderful cast of voice actors. Highlights include James Earl Jones (most iconic as Darth Vader) as Mufasa, Jeremy Irons (a marvelous thespian who plays Henry IV in BBC’s Hollow Crown productions) appropriate for the Shakespearean role of Scar. Jonathan Taylor Thomas (from Home Improvement) is young Simba; adult Simba is voiced by Matthew Broderick. Whoopi Goldberg (I mainly know her from this film and Sister Act and didn’t realize she was a stand-up comedian until I was a teenager) is one of the hyenas, and Broadway star Nathan Lane (he would later team up with Matthew Broderick for The Producers film) is Timon.

the-lion-king-original
(Too many pictures to choose from!)

The opening of The Lion King is iconic; I think most people know the movie from that scene alone. Young Simba is presented to the animal kingdom (Emma Swan jokes about the scene in Season 3 of Once Upon a Time) as we learn “there’s more to see/than ever be seen/more to do/than ever be done” and are all connected to the great Circle of Life. All of the animals bow to the little prince, a sunbeam highlighting the scene. We next meet Scar, the king’s younger brother who was next in line for the throne, until Simba was born. He doesn’t hide his disdain and refusal to show for the presentation. Unfortunately, Mufasa doesn’t know what to do with his troublesome kinsman and Scar is free to plot. An image that come back a few times in the movie is Rafiki’s drawing of Simba in his tree.

A few years pass and Simba wakes his father early (with a typical argument between the parents on whose son he is at that time of morning) so Mufasa can show him the kingdom. “Everything the light touches,” Mufasa explains, is their kingdom. The Outlands are beyond their borders and young Simba must never go there. Mufasa further prepares his son that the time will come when Mufasa will no longer be king, it will be Simba’s turn, and cautions that there is more to being a king than doing whatever one wants. There is a balance to life that the king must watch over. Of course, this lesson is interrupted by a brief pouncing practice, much to Zazu’s chagrin (another song, The Morning Report, was added in the Special Edition and appears on the corresponding soundtrack).

Mufasa must attend to royal duties so Simba visits his “weird” uncle and the meddling Scar puts the idea purposefully in young Simba’s head to explore the forbidden Elephant Graveyard. Of course, who should accompany Simba on his adventure is his best friend, Nala. Zazu lets slip that the two are betrothed (a human custom) and will one day be married (they protest now…just wait). As children are wont to do, Simba focuses on the fun of being “free to do it all my way” and merrily describes his rule and why I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. “Everywhere you look/I’m standing spotlight!”

The Elephant Graveyard is not as fun as Simba planned; after his claim to “laugh in the face of danger!”they run into three hyenas, Shanzi, Banzai, and Ed. Luckily, Mufasa arrives and scares off the three hyenas before they really hurt Simba or Nala. Mufasa is understandably very disappointed in his son and reiterates his earlier lesson that one day he will die, though he’ll look on from the stars above. A king is brave when he has to be and despite Simba’s thought that his dad isn’t scared of anything, Mufasa admits he was scared of losing Simba. There is a lovely wrestling match, putting worries aside.
Pals

That evening, Scar visits the hyenas, and confesses that he sent Simba and Nala to thescar be prepared Graveyard for the hyenas to “take care of.” He’s “surrounded by idiots” who can’t even do their job. What needs to happen is that Mufasa needs to die; without daddy dearest around, Simba will be simple prey. And then “in justice deliciously squared,” without those two in the way, Scar can assume the throne “I’ll be king undisputed/respected, saluted/and seen for the wonder I am!” and promises the hyenas a new life. A lot of the imagery from Be Prepared is influenced by Nazi propaganda: most explicitly, their march. Be Prepared is a fantastic villain song as well and Jeremy Irons is deliciously hammy [Jim Cummings (voice of Ed) had to finish the song for Jeremy Irons when the latter threw out his voice].

Scar promises Simba a surprise for he and his father the next day and leaves the cub in a gorge. The “surprise” is a wildebeest stampede (a scene equal to any action scene today and full of drama and tension). Scar acts suitably worried and runs alongside Mufasa as Zazu flies ahead to find Simba. But once Mufasa enters the gorge, Scar prowls around the top, knocking Zazu out to prevent the royal majordomo from getting further help. Mufasa finds his son and tosses him to safety, but is carried away by the pressing wildebeests. He jumps to the cliff a moment later and begs his brother for help. Scar sinks his claws into his brother’s legs and murmurs “Long live the king!” before flinging him into the mass. Simba witnesses his father’s fall and in the dusty aftermath, searches for him. He finds Mufasa’s still body (I cry every time, even as an adult) and pleads that “we’ve got to go.” The young cub realizes his dad is dead and tears streak his fur and he curls next to his protector one last time. Scar emerges and reinforces Simba’s thoughts that if it hadn’t been for him, his father would still be alive. He then directs his grief-shocked nephew to “run away and never return.” A moment later, he commands the hyena trio to “kill him.” Simba willingly falls into a bramble bush at the bottom of a cliff and gets away. After Banzai falls in, neither Shenzi nor Ed want to come out looking like “cactus butt,” and they determine if Simba was ever to return, they’d kill him then, shouting the warning to the departing cub. Scar, “with heavy heart” assumes the throne and “ushers in a new era” of living alongside hyenas. Rafiki wipes away the drawing of Simba in sorrow.

death_of_mufasa
(Sorry if it makes you tear up, but it’s such a poignant moment)

Buzzards float about a stretched out Simba; he’s providentially rescued by a warthog and meerkat, Pumba and Timon. At first, Timon suggests leaving him since he’s a lion, but Pumba ponders that he could grow up to be on their side. Timon’s advice to the depressed cub once he awakens is to put his past behind him; “when the world turns it back on you, you turn your back on da world.” They’re outcasts too and they teach him about Hakuna Matata, their “no worry” lifestyle, and how to eat bugs [that grossed me out as a kid. And yeah, Disney, we knew you meant “farted” even as kids. That was actually our favorite part of the song to sing-along to.]

There’s a fun montage showing the progression of time as the new trio crosses a bridge, repeating “Hakuna Matata.” All grown-up now, Timon, Pumba, and Simba discuss what “stars” truly are. Timon claims they’re “fireflies that got stuck up in that big bluish-black thing.” Pumba is scientifically correct stating they are balls of gas burning billions of miles away. And Simba shares what his father told him about the kings of the past looking down on them. He’s laughed at by Timon and Pumba and leaves to ponder the tragedy of his life. His scent drifts in the breeze to old Rafiki, who recognizes it and joyfully realizes Simba is alive. “It is time,” the monkey declares, now drawing a mane on Simba.

simba and nalaThe following morning, Timon and Pumba are out searching for grubs, singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight [this is how I know that song, despite it being older than the movie]. Pumba wanders off, to be chased by a grown lioness. Simba to the rescue! Until he’s pinned in a very familiar manner and recognizes a grown up Nala. Nala is understandably surprised to discover that Simba is alive and urges him to return with her to the Pride Lands and claim his throne. Simba decides that he and Nala need to have a talk, alone. Timon bemoans the two old friends’ romantic Can You Feel the Love Tonight [probably my second favorite Disney love song.  Elton John’s solo version is the only “pop” version of Disney songs that I liked growing up]. As an adult, some of their actions take on more meaning, like the looks between them while Nala is lying down. But I still think it’s sweet; they’re simple gestures between two beings that care about each other. And Simba looks a lot like his dad at times. Yet, at the end, the couple continues to argue over Simba’s return. He refuses; he can’t face his past. Nala wonders “why won’t he be the king I know he is/the king I see inside?” She tells him she’s disappointed that he’s not the same Simba she remembers. Simba in turns accuses her of sounding like his father. “Good, at least one of us does.” They fight further; Simba refuses to tell her the truth of why he ran away, deeming that to tell her now and return to the Pride Lands won’t change anything, and stalks off. He shouts his despair to the stars, reproving his father, “You said you’d always be there for me!” Quieter, “but you’re not. And it’s all my fault.”

A little chant echoes on the wind. Rafiki is dancing in a tree and comes down to impart wisdom on Simba. Simba can’t answer his question, “who are you?” Rafiki knows; he’s Mufasa’s boy. When Simba says that Mufasa has been dead for a while, Rafiki states “wrong again! He’s alive! And I’ll show him to you!” The crazy monkey leads Simba through vines and trees and roots [How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a scene that echoes this one] to a pool. Rafiki urges Simba to “look harder” at his reflection. The lion sees Mufasa, as Rafiki states, “he lives in you” (becomes a song title in the sequel). Mufasa’s bass voice rumbles and the clouds part, forming his silhouette. Mufasa chides his son that he has forgotten him; by forgetting who Simba truly is, he has forgotten Mufasa. Simba must take his place in the circle of life; he is Mufasa’s son and the one true king. He fades away, urging Simba to “remember.” Simba begs his father, “please, don’t leave me,” still the scared lion cub. Rafiki picks up the lesson and a whack from his stick knocks some sense into Simba, that while change is not easy, it is good. One can either run from their past, or learn from it. Hans Zimmer’s theme plays over a wonderful superimposed shot of Simba running back to the Pride Lands. Nala, Timon, and Pumba soon catch up and agree to help Simba reclaim his home. When he cautions that it will be dangerous, Nala echoes his childish claim “I laugh in the face of danger!” Timon and Pumba act as live bait, dressing in drag and doing the hula, a little bit of comedic relief before we delve into the drama.

We witness the devastation that Scar’s rule had wrought. The land is barren and we find out from Sarabi, Mufasa’s widow that the herds have moved on. She advises that they leave Pride Rock. Scar refuses. “Then you have sentenced us to death!” “I am the king,” he replies, “I can do whatever I want!” He swipes at the lioness, but Simba leaps to her defense. Both she and Scar first assume he’s Mufasa. Sarabi is pleased to see her grown son; Scar is annoyed to discover that the hyena trio failed at their mission. Simba growls at his uncle, “give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart.” Scar states that the hyenas think he’s king, but then sinisterly turns the conversation back on Simba, dragging up how Mufasa died, pressuring Simba to admit that he killed his father. “Murderer!” he instantly declares and further pushes, all the while circling his nephew, stating that it was Simba’s fault, even if it was an accident. A very confused Simba slips on the edge of Pride Rock, lightning from the gathering storm lighting a fire beneath. Scar recalls a similar scene, and digs his claws into Simba’s paws the same way he had Mufasa’s. He whispers his little secret: “I killed Mufasa!” Simba leaps onto Scar, now declaring him the murderer. A paw on Scar’s throat compels Scar to admit the truth out loud. The hyenas are on Simba and lionesses attack the hyenas.

War breaks out (with a brief comedic interlude with monkey kung-fu and a bit about “Mr. Pig.” I still don’t get that reference, but I thought it was hilarious as a kid). Scar attempts to slink away, but Simba is on him, growling that Scar doesn’t deserve to live. Scar pleads that the hyenas are the real enemy (Ed, Banazi, and Shenzi can hear this) and Simba decides he won’t be like Scar; he won’t kill him. Instead, he instructs him to “run away and never return.” Scar plays dirty and swipes ash into Simba’s eyes. There is a violent showdown between the two before Simba flips Scar over and down to a ledge below. Scar thinks he’s in the clear when the hyenas come to him, but they turn on him since he claimed they were the enemy. Shadows play on the rock behind, not giving us a direct view at what happens. It rains harder, putting out the fire and washing away the stain of Scar. To music that gives me goosebumps, Simba at first hesitates to approach the edge of Pride Rock; he had run and hidden from this responsibility, scared he was unsuited, but one last echo of “Remember” from Mufasa and Simba proudly takes his place at the edge of Pride Rock and releases a mighty roar. It’s echoed by the lionesses and greenry springs into the Pride Lands.

simba roar

The movie ends with a triumphant reprise of Circle of Life, which continues with the presentation of Simba and Nala’s cub.

There was a direct-to-video sequel, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (a play on both a lion belonging to a “pride,” and his daughter being his pride, and maybe even Simba’s own pride and how it affects his own decisions…though that’s a little deep for the movie and not as evident) that came out four years after the original. A tale about Simba and Nala’s daughter, Kiara. Her story mimics her father’s at time, having to go out and experience life on her own before she understands what her father taught her. There are elements of Romeo and Juliet in the plot; two warring families, their children falling in love. Except, the couple does not die at the end! Some of the songs are good and overall a good story; I consider it one of Disney’s better sequels (especially compared to most of their other animated sequels). In addition to a cartoon series in the 90s, Timon and Pumba’s story, Lion King 11/2 came out in 2004; there are funny parts, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the original. Now on Disney Junior, there is a new cartoon series about Simba’s son (I see plot hole regarding the sequel), called Lion Guard.

The original film was transformed into a Broadway production in 1997, and is still running (meaning it recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary…wow). It was nominated for Best Musical and Best Original Score at the Tony’s and did win in several other categories. Next summer, a live-action/CGI adaptation is due out, with an all-star cast; most notably, James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa (no teaser out yet, but I am excited to see it).

Overall, this is a great family film. It’s about family, responsibility; the characters are deliciously complex and I feel it has stood the test of time. Even though I have seen the movie several times, I still get apprehensive during the stampede and Scar and Simba’s showdown, and sad at Mufasa’s death. Timon and Pumba were my favorite characters as a kid, because they were funny. Now, I enjoy Scar as a villain, and I wish we could have seen more of Mufasa since he is a very wise king and very loving of his son. I can feel a connection to Simba as a young adult facing responsibilities. The artwork is phenomenal; the emotions they are able to put into the faces and still have them look like lion’s; just look at Simba’s face right before he roars at the end. Re-watching the movie has awakened my love of the film; it ranks towards the top of my list.

As always, I welcome questions or comments. Do you like any of the pop versions of Disney songs?

Next Time: Pocahontas