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Tag Archives: Disney

Disneyland and the Promise of the Ideal

One thing they don’t tell you when you’re a little kid is that being an adult is no fun. There are bills, there are pressures, there is stress and there isn’t anybody who’s going to make sure you get a snack at a specific time of day.

I spent last weekend in Disneyland and I was reminded that even though there are aspects of adult life that are a total drag, it’s important to take some time every so often to remember what it was like to be a child. Now I don’t mean in the sense where you digress into a childlike state and disregard all your responsibilities and forget how to feed yourself. I mean it in the sense that Disneyland is one of the few places on Earth where everything around you is meant to evoke a period either in your life (or perhaps on a greater scale, a time in American history) where things were ideal.

It’s abstract, sure, but the fact is that there are a lot of things – whether they’re as routine as another day at the office or as extreme as another war in the Middle East – that make us forget the potential that we as a people (not just as a country) are capable of. Imagine what the world would be like if people actually followed through with the ambition of Tomorrowland or sought out the thrill of Adventureland. Imagine how people would treat each other if they extrapolated the shared understanding and respect that’s involved with standing in a line for eighty minutes for a ride that lasts two. You can wave off Disney as a crass and thinly veiled capitalist enterprise, hell-bent on funneling you into a gift shop to fleece you of cash, but when was the last time you were so unabashedly happy that you didn’t give hugging a stranger in a felt mouse costume a second thought or so uncaring of what other people thought of you that you wore Mickey Mouse ears with your name embroidered on the back?

The magic of Disneyland – at least for me – is not the spectacle of the fireworks, the highly choreographed street parade, the technological achievement of the rides or the plethora of ways sugar can be recombined for maximum deliciousness. It’s the look in a 4-year old’s eyes when Mickey saunters over, drops to one knee and offers a hug. It goes beyond the idea of, “this is the character I see in all those cartoons.” It’s the moment where they realize it’s all real. That’s what I think we’re missing in our daily lives: the willingness to suspend our disbelief learned from years of being bombarded with the harsh truths and horrors of the world and embrace what we always imagined – or rather what we always knew – was real.

It’s easy to get lost in the everyday, to get jaded and forget what could be. I know Disneyland isn’t for everyone, but it helps me remember what it feels like to be surrounded by unbridled potential, what it feels like to discover something new and, most important of all, what it feels like to be a child again.

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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“Tangled” or “Yup, That’s a Horse with a Sword”

With Disney’s recent announcement that they weren’t going to be making any more “princess” movies and the fact that “Tangled” is the studio’s 50th feature length animated film, it makes me sad to think that there won’t be more of them. I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved the studio’s past two forays into “girlie” territory, I truly think that there’s a huge appeal for movies aimed at girls that don’t pander to them and are actually entertaining for viewers from other demographics.

However, I do want to make one thing clear. Had this movie been just about the girl with freakshow length hair that could have easily featured on an episode of Law&Order SVU for child abduction and Stockholm syndrome, I wouldn’t have cared. The reason that this movie is great is quite simply because of Maximus the horse. He doesn’t have a single line of dialogue, and he has no doofy song about “wanting to belong” but this equine law enforcer steals every scene, hell every shot, he’s in. Have you ever seen a horse sucker punch someone? Have you ever seen a horse sniff the ground like a bloodhound? Have you ever seen a horse sword fight? I swear if I could have a horse like Maximus, I don’t think I would ever need any more friends. So what if he’s not real, I don’t really care.

Man-eating horse? Yes please.

Kudos to the Disney animators that made me care about a movie about a imprisoned girl by having an anthropomorphized horse steal the show.  It’s a real shame that they’re closing the door to these kinds of movies. At least we got one good, ridiculous cartoon horse out of it.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Convergence of nerd – “Avengers” Assemble

*Note* I don’t usually post about things that will happen in the future, but this one is too near to my heart to pass up. I apologize if I geek out too hard.

One thing I missed while on my honeymoon was what could possibly be the most incredible, amazing, astounding, spectacular, nerd-tastic convergence of awesome in the history of western civilization. At San Diego Comic Con 2010, the mecca of all things geek, the cast of the culmination of Marvel Studios’ years of planning was announced – the “Avengers” movie.

So what’s so special about this one movie? To start with it, it features every major superhero that Marvel has been spotlighting in its feature films starting with “Iron Man”. These are characters that have been part of the American popular landscape for the greater part of the last 70 years and they’re finally all getting a single moment to shine. And take a look at who they’ve wrangled for the job –

Captain America (Chris Evans)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)

The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Why should you, the average filmgoer, care? Because, if it’s done right, it will blow your mind. And director Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, Glee) is very good at blowing minds, just ask any nerd in that conference hall in San Diego.

In non-nerd terms, imagine if every winner of American Idol were singing “We are the World” while the planets were aligned and you’ve got a fraction of how amazing this movie can be…hold on, this movie comes out in 2012, doesn’t it? Maybe the Mayans were right – this much awesome surely must be a sign of the pending apocalypse. As long as I make it through the end credits before the huge world-ending volcano erupts, I’ll be happy.

Check out the announcement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8YN-UqCTJ0

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Back on top – Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’

Before you judge me based on the fact that I went to see a Disney “princess” movie, let me say one thing. I don’t care. As a lifelong Disney fan, I’ve seen almost every animated feature in the Disney canon, and yes those include all the princess ones too. They’re great, deal with it. After a lengthy period where it looked like Michael Eisner and computer animation had all but killed traditional hand-drawn animation, I was worried that the recently released “Princess and the Frog” was going to be a false start in the studios’ attempt to resurrect the art form. Someone should have slapped me because boy were my assumptions dead wrong.

I won’t bore you with hyperbolic descriptions about how the animation was spectacular, how the Alan Menken songs hearkened back to Disney’s heyday, or how the characters were simultaneously funny and touching. You could read any review in any magazine for that kind of thing. The thing that I’ve always loved most about cinema is the way that every person will have a different reaction and will engage the film in vastly different ways. A film can mean any number of things depending on the kinds of associative memories the viewer is bringing into the theater.

For me, as someone who loves animation, the film was a love letter to those past traditions that had withered on the vine and had then been left to rot by those in charge. For many of the audience members of the opening night at the Court Street theater in Brooklyn, the film had a vastly different significance.  Why? Well, first a little background on the film – Disney ran into a bit of trouble with “Princess & The Frog” because they not only chose to set the film in New Orleans, but also because the film was going to be the first to to finally induct a black princess into their predominantly monochromatic pantheon of princesses. Considering how sensitive a topic race is in this country, the fact that they managed to avoid most of the potential pitfalls that could have beset the film is a miracle in itself; but it’s a minor miracle when compared to how the film was received at the Court Street theater.

The theater sits on the cusp between Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn and services a large black community. Feel free to go ahead and give me crap for saying it, but my experiences seeing movies in the Court Street theater have almost always featured some example of the stereotype of black people in movie theaters. Yes, I know stereotypes are wrong, but I happen to think this one makes the moviegoing experience that much more entertaining. There has rarely been a film I have seen in that theater that did not involve some lady yelling, “don’t go in there!” during some horror movie, so the added layer of audience interaction is always a treat.

Maybe it was the film’s protagonist, maybe it was the subject matter or maybe it was the fact that it was so exceptionally well crafted, but for the entirety of the film, no one uttered a word in the packed theater. Not one word. This is unheard of. Once the credits started rolling, people even clapped! In Brooklyn! The chances of this happening are about as slim as finding a politician without a mistress. The little girl with the thick glasses and pigtails sitting in the seat next to me was on the edge of her seat, eyes glued to the screen the whole way through.

For whatever technical achievements “Princess & The Frog” may represent, the ultimate marker of its worth is the message that derives from its story. Tiana is the first Disney princess whose underlying purpose is not to find self-worth by passively waiting for some prince to come and marry her. Rather, her message is that dreams are attainable if you persevere and work hard – a valuable and powerful lesson for kids, little girls especially. While I may have walked out of that theater with an appreciation for the song and visual style of the film, that little girl who sat next to me walked out of there with more than that – she walked out with a positive role model. That alone is worth the ticket price.

Go see this movie. Your inner child will thank you.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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