Before the Jubilee

Young Victoria

This was the movie that got me interested in Queen Victoria, one of the most famous British monarchs. We tend to remember her as the widow who dressed in black and was supposedly “not amused.” This film shows the start of her reign and the start of her marriage to Prince Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Their story is told more fully in the British serial Victoria and Albert, which features Victoria Hamilton as the queen. Hamilton has recently played the Queen Mother in Netflix’s The Crown. Masterpiece has also begun a series on Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman (and others who are very recognizable from BBC, including our old friend Rufus Sewell as Melbourne). Victoria’s reign brought the monarchy to be viewed with respect and an essential British institution, “the queen had become a proud symbol of the stability and power of Britain…the greatest empire known to history (Royal Britain, pg. 213).”

This film also boasts an all-star cast. Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada) is Victoria, Paul Bettany (Chaucer in Knight’s Tale and Vision in the MCU) is Lord Melbourne. Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter, Madame Giry in the film Phantom of the Opera, Queen Rosalind in The Prince and Me, and Queen Mab from the mini-series Merlin which starred Sam Neill) is Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent. Another Harry Potter cast member, Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn, also Professor Kirke in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge, and he pops up in Game of Thrones) is King William. And baddie Sir Jon Conroy is played by Mark Strong (Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes). And fun fact that I did not realize until now, the screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes, the same man who wrote Downton Abbey.

The film’s opening sets the stage: “In 1819, a child is born in a London palace. Caught between two Royal Uncles – the King of England and the King of the Belgians, she is destined to be a Queen and to rule a great empire. Unless she is forced to relinquish her powers and sign a ‘regency order.’ A Regents is appointed to govern in place of a monarch who is absent, disabled…or too young.” Victoria herself feels she was born more fortunate than others, but a palace can still be a prison. She lived a solitary childhood; slept in the same bedroom as her mother, could not go down the stairs alone, having to hold the hand of an adult. Her time was severely censored. Her mother’s advisor, John Conroy, hoped that there would be a regency enacted when her uncle died, allowing Victoria’s mother to rule, and thus John to rule her. Victoria knew what sort of man he was and prayed for the strength to meet her destiny.

We briefly glimpse the coronation in 1838, then jump back a year. Conroy is attempting to force an ill Victoria to sign the regency document, but she still refuses. Meanwhile, her uncle in Belgium hopes for English aid to keep him on the throne, so he and his advisor come up with the plan for his nephews Ernst and Albert to visit Victoria. Albert is tutored on what Victoria likes and dislikes, clearly setting the stage to entice Victoria to marry him. Albert’s not terribly keen on the notion, but attempts it nonetheless. When he finally mentions one of his own likes, Victoria gives him a smile. She confesses to him that she feels like a chess piece. Albert understands what it is like living inside your head, never showing your true emotion to the outside world.
Victoria’s mother and John Conroy have kept Victoria from court; the king is not fond of either adult, but loves Victoria. Victoria insists on attending the king’s birthday and meets Lord Melbourne who starts winning her over. The king declares his dying wish is to live long enough for Victoria to turn eighteen, so there can be no regency. John still insists and goes as far as to lay hands on Victoria (in actuality, he wasn’t quite that stupid).

Victoria does indeed turn eighteen before the king dies and she becomes the new queen. Her first order of business, separate her from her mother. She will sleep in her own room from now on. Victoria admits that she is young, but she is willing to learn and intends to devote her life to serving her people. Albert had to return home, but they continue to write letters to each other. Victoria informs him she is the first monarch to live in the recently completed Buckingham Palace (the current monarchy still lives there primarily).

young victoriaShe also glows about Melbourne. Albert decides to return to England to spend time with Victoria (by now, he has fallen in love with her. She has admitted to Melbourne she has made no promise to Albert, but she still feels alone). Albert counsels Victoria to play the chess game better than the others, and that others will expect Victoria to fail and taken advantage of her inexperience. He believes in her. And truly cares about the working people. Melbourne doesn’t want to upset the status quo, though he does tell Conroy “you have played the game and lost.” We witness the coronation again, in the context of what we have just learned. Victoria wants to rule on her own for a while and thus, even though she danced with Albert at the coronation ball, he must return home again. They continue to write letters and Albert worries for Victoria.

Melbourne loses power and Peel becomes Prime Minister, but Victoria does not like Peel and Melbourne ends up back on the job, but that bypasses what the people want and creates a constitutional crisis. Rioters turn up at Buckingham. There is an assassination attempt. Albert continues to write to Victoria that he believes she can rule her country. Victoria decides to invite Albert back, and proposes. We catch a glimpse of their wedding (yes, Victoria was the one who made famous wearing white at your wedding).

Sadly, Victoria being queen means they cannot go on an extended honeymoon like most upper class people. (Albert makes a comment about visiting Scotland, that it would most be like Germany. It is true that they enjoyed visiting Scotland and bought Balmoral Castle, making it a royal residence that the current queen still enjoys visiting.) Then comes the difficulty of Albert fitting in to England and finding a way to support his wife while she is queen, but also still able to act like a husband, though they do end up expecting a child. Victoria disliked Albert getting involved with politics and they have an argument. The next day, they go on a carriage ride and there is another assassination attempt. In the film, Albert is injured, real life, no. But Victoria does put their desks next to each other. Afterwards, history would prove that “he played an increasingly central role in affairs of state and meeting with ministers (Royal Britain, pg. 220).”

The film summarizes that Victoria and Albert had nine children. “Among their descendants are the Royal Families of Britain, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Yugoslavia, Russia, Greece, Romania, and Germany [this is how World War I was an overgrown family squabble].” They reigned together for twenty years until Prince Albert died in 1861 from typhoid fever at the age of 42. “In memory of her husband, Victoria had his clothes laid out every day until her death at the age of 81. Among their accomplishments, Victoria and Albert championed reforms in education, welfare, and industry. Their unflagging support of the arts and sciences was most famously celebrated in Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851.” The last statement the movie makes is that Victoria remains the longest reigning British Sovereign. To date. This film was made in 2008. It is no longer true. Her descendent, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest ruling British Sovereign in 2015 (Victoria reigned 63 years, her great-great-granddaughter has now reigned 65 years. Personally, I think it’s awesome that the two longest reigning British monarchs are women).

Historically, “Victoria and Albert’s marriage, stable life and large family did much to restore the dignity and standing of the monarchy after the excesses and public disgraces of the early Hanoverian kings (Royal Britain, pg. 220).” The film does show and more so in the longer serial and television series, it was not smooth sailing. They had difficulty with their eldest son, Edward, the Prince of Wales. When Albert died, Victoria did indeed go into black and withdrew from society for at least ten years. What I liked about this film is that is shows that Victoria and Albert truly loved each other. I liked the way they tried to support each other. As I stated earlier, it showed a different side to a monarch I knew was important, but haven’t studied in depth.

Up Next: A popular Victorian literary hero, Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie’s film starring Robert Downey Jr.)

Inconceivable!

Princess Bride

Based on the book, which I believe I actually read before I saw the movie; a friend lent it to me in high school to demonstrate how to write dueling scenes. Since I had already fallen in love with Lord of the Rings by that point, I just take it as a fun medieval/fantasy story. I have friends who dearly love the movie. Billy Crystal appears in the film as Miracle Max. Fred Savage, older brother to Ben Savage (Boy Meets World) is the grandson. Andre the Giant plays the giant Fezzik. Robin Wright who played Buttercup, kicks butt in the 2017 film Wonder Woman as General Antiope. This is probably Cary Elwes’s most famous role as Westley, though he’s gone on to play Lord Arthur Holmwood in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (I’ve seen parts of it), starred as Robin Hood in Men in Tights, played against type as the villainous Edgar in Ella Enchanted and I guess is now part of Stranger Things (no, I am not going to watch the show; I’ve fallen into too many fandoms as it is).

This is a case of a story within a story; the premise is that a grandfather reads this story to his grandson when his grandson is sick. The tale opens with a beautiful young girl named Buttercup, who torments the farm boy Westley, ordering him about. He always responds with “as you wish.” One day, Buttercup comes to realize that he is secretly telling her he loves her. She then realizes that she loves him; they are true loves. (Fans picked up on this notion in Once Upon a Time, when Hook tells Emma “as you wish,” when she orders him to wait after they share a searing kiss.) Westley leaves to seek his fortune so he could marry Buttercup, but word comes that his ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves survivors. Five years pass and Buttercup is now raised to a princess and engaged to marry Prince Humperdinck. But she does not truly love the prince. She is abducted during one of her daily rides the day of her engagement announcement by Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik. They have orders to kill her and blame it on a neighboring kingdom, thereby starting a war.

First, they set sail. Inigo notes that they are being followed. “Inconceivable!” Vizzini declares (Inigo later points out: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”) Buttercup attempts to escape by jumping overboard, but the water is filled with shrieking eels. They next come to the Cliffs of Insanity; only Fezzik is strong enough to climb, they should lose their tail. Nope, a man in black makes his way up the cliffs as well. Vizzini cuts the rope, but still he persists. Inigo is left behind to deal with him. It is a rather fantastic duel; both are gentlemen about it, Inigo even helping his opponent finish the climb and giving him a chance to catch his breath. (Behind the scenes notes state that the actors performed the duel themselves, tutored by legendary sword masters). We learn that Inigo is hunting for a six-fingered man who killed his father. The man in black wins after a dizzying circle of his sword, knocks Inigio out and continues. He faces Fezzik next and manages to choke him asleep, after being rammed into a rock a few times. battle of witsFinally, the man faces Vizzini in a battle of wits. He pours iocaine powder into a goblet and Vizzini is to guess which one. Vizzini is a smug man, believing he is smarter than any famous philosopher. Then he relies on a simple trick to switch goblets, thinking he’s won. The man in black was more cunning; he put powder into both goblets, but he’s spent the past several years building up an immunity to it. He then pulls the princess along, even though Humperdinck is tracking them.

Buttercup admits to her new captor that she does not love the prince; her first love was killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, whom the man admits he is. Then admits he remembered the lad, but calls Buttercup out for being unfaithful, moving on to Humperdinck. “I died that day!” she declares. Humperdink is close; she pushes the man in black down a hill, telling him “you can die for all I care.” “As you wish,” the man stutters down the hill. She realizes it is her beloved Westley and follows him down the hill. Westley’s mask is now off, revealing it is the same man. They take refuge in the Fire Swamp to evade Humperdink, facing bursts of fire, lightning quick sand, and R.O.U.S (Rodents of Unusual Size, which are creepy and remind me in hindsight of creatures from Merlin). Westley is injured in a fight against a rodent. When they emerge from the Fire Swamp, Humperdinck is waiting for them. Westley is all ready to return to the swamp to protect Buttercup. But she sacrifices her happiness so Westley won’t be killed. Humperdinck promises his fiancée that he will not harm Westley and will return him to his ship. He takes his bride-to-be back and rides off. Westley makes eye contact with Count Rugen; they both know the prince is lying. Interestingly enough, the Count has six fingers on one hand.

Rugen takes control of Westley and plans to torture him on his machine, which sucks the life out of people. Buttercup in the meantime has decided she cannot marry the prince; she loves Westley and will be reunited with him. Humperdinck then promises that he will send word to recall Westley, but if that does not come to fruition, Buttercup will still marry him. In truth, he was the one who had hired the trio to abduct and kill Buttercup; now he plans to murder her on their wedding night; still planning to blame another kingdom and start a war.

Fezzik is reunited with Inigo before the wedding and they decide the break the man in black out, discovering that he is the princess’s true love. Except Buttercup has figured out that Humperdinck never followed through with his promises. She believes that Westley will still come for her and calls Humperdinck a coward. Humperdinck is enraged and cranks Rugen’s machine up to fifty, killing Westley. Everyone can hear his scream. Fezzik and Ingio recover Westley and buy a miracle; they need his brains to sneak into the castle so Inigo can have his revenge. It works only because Westley is “mostly” dead, compared to completely dead. Miracle Max creates the pill to get back at Humperdinck for firing him.

Our heroes storm the castle with some illusions, breaking up Buttercup and Humperdinck’s wedding (the priest has a hilarious manner of speaking), though Humperdinck gets the priest to declare them “man and wife.” Rugen faces off against Inigo, who simply advances on the man despite his wounds declaring “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.” Buttercup, despaired that she is married drop your swordto Humperdinck and Westley is dead, per Humperdinck’s word, decides she will kill herself before Humperdinck reaches their marriage bed. But Westley is waiting for her. He is still not back to full strength but gives the prince an epic speech; they will fight to the pain and Westley will leave his ears so the prince can hear every word against him and his promised hideousness. He stands and orders the prince “Drop your sword.” Humperdinck complies and Buttercup ties him up. Inigo finds them and Fezzik is waiting with horses. Westley and Buttercup share the most epic kiss that has ever been recorded.

The boy decides that he doesn’t mind the kissing and maybe his grandfather will read him the story again tomorrow.

There are times this movie reminds me of Mel Gibson’s work, or a bit of a spoof on traditional fantasy movies. Maybe it’s the inclusion of typically comedic actors. Vizzini is a laugh, there’s a little bit between Miracle Max and his wife whom he calls a witch. Maybe it’s the fact that it simply includes a lot of typical fantasy elements, presented straight forward, without trying to add anything. Buttercup is admittedly not a simple damsel in distress. She does try to help Westley fight off the giant rat, after standing there most of the time. They speak of true love often and I can see it once Westley and Buttercup are separated, but not so much while they’re growing up. Westley is an excellent, dashing hero. The costumes are over all fine; but those huge crowns are ridiculous. There is admittedly some epic dialogue. At the end of the evening, a fun movie to put on, not something that needs to be processed deeply.

I’d love to hear from anyone who truly loves this movie as to their reasons, since I didn’t really connect with it.  Maybe I found it too late to completely fall in love?

Next Time: Stardust

“Everybody Wants to Live Happily Ever After”

Enchanted

Disney’s parody of its own movies. I’m sure most people recognized a good portion of the cast. Leading lady is Amy Adams (Lois Lane in the new Superman movies) as Giselle. Leading man is Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) as Robert Phillip. James Marsden (Cyclops in the first X-Men trilogy) is Prince Edwaard, Idina Menzel (pre-Frozen) is Nancy Tremaine [possibly an homage to Cinderella’s stepmother?], Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter) is Nathanial, and Susan Sarandon (Hollywood legend) is Queen Narissa. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz returned to produce the music. Pointed out on the Disney wiki site, “several actresses who have played character in Disney films have cameos: Paige O’Hara (Belle), Jodi Benson (Ariel) was Robert’s secretary, Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas), and Julie Andrews was the narrator [that, I could recognize the voice].

The film starts by entering the castle in the Disney logo and we find a storybook like the first Disney movies featured. The book opens in traditional animation, in the fantasy land of Andalasia. The land is ruled by an evil queen who dreads the day her stepson, Prince Edward will ascend the throne, marry, and his bride will take her crown. Away in the forest, lives Giselle, who has been dreaming of a prince and true love’s kiss (akin to Snow White, complete with woodland creatures, and a talking chipmunk named Pip). Her singing attracts said prince, who too is waiting for his true love to complete his duet. Edward is currently hunting a troll with his *cough* faithful companion, Nathaniel. In his distraction, the troll escapes and wants to eat the fair maiden. Giselle is rescued by Edward and they vow to wed in the morning.

Giselle arrives at the castle the next morning in a humongous white dress, eager for herEnchanted Wedding Dress wedding. But she is waylaid by an old hag who wants to bestow a wedding wish. She pushes the maiden into the wishing well. The hag transforms into the queen and tells her stooge, Nathaniel, that she is sending Giselle to a world where there are no happy endings (similar to the premise of Once Upon a Time). The fall through the well transports Giselle to modern Times Square, in live action New York City. Giselle is terribly lost and confused. Help arrives in the form of Robert Phillip and his daughter, Morgan. He’s kind enough to take Giselle home with him, but on the condition that she calls for help. His resolve softens when Giselle falls asleep.

Come the next morning, Giselle decides to tidy the apartment and calls for her animal friends. Instead of bunnies and squirrels, she gets rats, bugs, and pigeons. They do a Happy Working Song (akin to Snow White and the bubbles in the bathroom are reminiscent of Cinderella). Afterwards, she takes a shower, which becomes a problem when Robert’s soon-to-be-fiancée, Nancy arrives and presumes that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. To a modern woman, that’s what it looks like. Giselle does not endear herself to Robert when she makes a new dress out of his curtains. He wants her gone, but he has to go to work.

Edward and Pip (the chipmunk had seen everything) venture through the well to rescue Giselle. Edward “slays” a bus, then runs off in search of his bride. Nathaniel pops through a bit later, on orders from the queen to prevent Edward from finding Giselle; he’s followed by Pip. When he does not have any luck, Queen Narissa sends him three poisoned apples (another homage to Snow White). She plays to the notion that once Edward and Giselle are out of the way, she and Nathaniel will have a chance. Adult viewers know that Narissa is simply using Nathaniel.

At Robert’s office, he argues with Giselle over the nature of love. He’s a divorce lawyer and finds Giselle’s simplistic view of love childish. This stems from Robert’s ex-wife leaving when his daughter was little. They take a walk in the park to prevent her from causing more problems. He points out that one cannot marry someone after one day of knowing them; dates are what’s done, giving the couple an opportunity to talk and get to know each other. Giselle still insists that love doesn’t have to be complicated. If Robert doesn’t tell Nancy how he feels, how does she know? This becomes a full dance and song number, gathering people from across the park. Per her instructions, a pair of doves take a bouquet to Nancy.

A commotion is made at dinner that evening and Giselle lands on the news; Edward has discovered television and now has a clue to Giselle’s whereabouts. He finds a lot of wrong doors in the apartment building while Giselle and Robert continue their argument. Giselle has never been angry before. In the morning, Edward knocks on the door. Giselle (in another new dress) does not immediately want to return to Andalasia; she wants to go on a date with Edward, giving themselves an opportunity to talk. In the meantime, Narissa declares she is coming to the real world to deal with Giselle herself. She rises out of the man hole and shoots lightning at the billboards.

Both couples ultimately attend an conveniently arranged costumed ball. Giselle and Morgan bond more during a fun shopping excursion. Giselle shows up in a modern gown compared to the traditional gowns the rest of the guests are in. And the ball has a convenient tradition to have the gentlemen dance with a lady they did not arrive with. Edward dances with Nancy while Robert dances with Giselle. Nancy sees the look that Giselle has and retrieves her boyfriend. They share a kiss and Edward starts to lead Giselle away. The hag reappears, with a final apple, promising to take away Giselle’s pain; it would be like it never happened. Giselle takes a bite and passes out. Robert and Edward rush to her rescue. Nathaniel exposes Queen Narissa. Edward takes his stepmother to task; she will be stripped of her crown. Giselle can only be waken with true love’s kiss. A kiss from Edward does not work. Nancy tells Robert to try. That’s the ticket.

evil stepmother

The other attendees think the whole thing is a show. It gets more dramatic when Narissa transforms into a dragon (akin to Sleeping Beauty). Robert protects Giselle and Narissa is fine with taking him hostage. Giselle rushes off (removing her shoes), taking Edward’s sword to face off against Narissa. Narissa is ultimately defeated.

Everyone gets a happy ending. Nathaniel and Pip both write books, Pip in Andalasia and Nathaniel in the real world. Edward and Nancy end up together, Edward taking Nancy to animated Andalasia. Robert and Giselle end up together, starting a clothing company and being utterly adorable as a family.

Overall, I find it to be a cute movie; it’s fun to combine traditional animation and live action, and the idea of an over-the-top princess in modern-day New York is also fun. At one point, while re-watching the movie, it reminded me of a typical Hallmark plotline; girl falls in love with one guy, but after spending time with another who seems the complete opposite, realizes that the second man is the right one. (Don’t get me wrong, Hallmark movies are fun to watch, but I can take them for only so long). The songs are cute, Morgan is adorable and I love her interaction with Giselle. Her dresses are pretty 🙂

It’s just, part of it is simple: the good guys are good, the bad guy is bad. There are a few grey characters. Pip is annoying when he talks and I don’t think he really learned anything from his time being quiet. Nathaniel was a wonderfully complex character, but there is an instant dislike because watching him, I see Wormtail. Robert and Giselle both grow, but Edward doesn’t. Nancy is sort of just there, and happily pairs up with Edward in the end…no build up to why she’d willingly run away from her current life to instantly get married to an animated prince.

Though, it is funny that Disney paid homage to many of its own clichés, and even mentioned it’s a poor idea to marry someone you’ve just met (again, Nancy does this, so I don’t think they learned their lesson).

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Next Time: Prince of Persia

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.

“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.