Pinocchio (1940)

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“Pinocchio” is a one-of-kind gem in the Disney Canon. Disney has always adapted a lot of grim fairy tales, novels and folklore – distilling some of the more gruesome elements into cheerier, contemporary films that still retain the themes and ideas of the source material – and it does so rather well. “Pinocchio” is quite rightly remembered as one of the few Disney films that are genuinely, unrelentingly frightening. Because, here’s the thing about Disney. The studio is extraordinarily good at invoking mood whiplash when it does so deliberately. “Robin Hood” was a lively, lighthearted romp that got very dark in it’s last act. Likewise, “Pinocchio” starts off as a cozy, whimsical, wholesome story about family, love and dreams coming true, and then it gradually turns into a ghost train ride, starting from the moment Pinocchio, the wooden boy, innocently lights his own hand on fire. “Pinocchio” benefits a lot from giving it’s darker moments time to simmer and contrasting them with the innocence of it’s lead; letting dread build and sinisterness spill off the screen before it finally strikes forward savagely.

Pinocchio And Lampwick

The strongest and most iconic example is the Pleasure Island sequence. Pinocchio and dozens of other little boys are ‘generously’ allowed to indulge in every vice they can imagine. They smoke, drink, fight, wreck everything they get their hands on, and generally behave like animals, and Pinocchio, despite knowing better, joins in with encouragement from his pal Lampwick. That night, when the park’s gone far too empty, Jiminy Cricket tries to talk some sense into the boys but winds up being pushed around and humiliated by Lampwick, the audience reminded that the ugly side of human nature isn’t just exclusive to adults. Jiminy does manage to uncover the truth of Pleasure Island though. The park’s proprietor turns it’s inhabitants into animals, stealing their voice so they can never speak another word and selling them into slavery and hard labor for the rest of their lives.  He’s in the market for slaves. Pinocchio and the audience watch Lampwick undergo a werewolf-like transformation, losing his mind and his humanity screeching, metaphorically dying, before Pinocchio and Jiminy are forced to flee the island and abandon everyone there to die, lest they be next. And this is the final fate of the Pleasure Island boys. It’s one of the most brutal things Disney has ever done, one of the most honest (if you stray too far from home and ignore all your instincts, you could land yourself in some trouble you’ll never get out of) and one of the most memorable.

Pinocchio

I’ve been heaping a lot of praise onto this movie, but none of this is to say “Pinocchio” is a perfect film. Like a lot of the big Walt Disney classics, it does have some glaring flaws that are often ignored. The first two acts segue into each other nicely, but the movie starts to go off the rails and stops making sense in the last act when Pinocchio and Jiminy mount a rescue mission to save Pinocchio’s dad from Monstro the whale. The new direction the film takes raises quite a few questions. Why did Gepetto decide to look for Pinocchio out at sea? Where did he get a boat from? Did he always have a boat? Gepetto states he hasn’t caught any fish in days and is on the verge of starving, but the film makes it clear Pinocchio and Jiminy were only away from home for two days tops (they escape from Stromboli, hop on a midnight barge to Pleasure Island, spend a day there and rush home) and Gepetto almost certainly set out on the second day, so when did he find time to starve? Why can Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket breathe underwater? (Pinocchio, I can understand, he doesn’t have lungs). Presumably it’s because of cartoon physics, but if that’s the case then why does Pinocchio die by drowning? (At first I thought it was because he’d been fatally throttled by Monstro, but upon rewatch it was death by drowning). The whale chase sequence is one of the most thrilling and well-animated climaxes in the Disney canon, but the circumstances surrounding it are more than a bit contrived. The fact that Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio” was an episodic novel and Disney had trouble tying the story together for film probably explains the cracks in the film starting to show in the last twenty minutes. It’s a mark against the film, but far from a deal breaker.

Jiminy Cricket

One of the most notable departures from the source material is Pinocchio’s characterization. While Collodi’s Pinocchio was a cold, cruel, sociopathic creature, the title character of Disney’s second film is a lovable, enthusiastic, naive child trying to maneuver his way through an unfamiliar world and often stumbling along the way. Due to “Pinocchio” having a surprisingly great understanding of children and containing a lot of childhood fears (some adult fears as well), the living marionette’s character arc throughout the film winds up encapsulating a lot of the experience of being a young kid. Looking up to your parents, being tempted to blow off school, ignoring the advice of grown-ups, getting in way over your head, lying to avoid disappointing others, being afraid of losing your family, gaining friends who are a bad influence on you and learning to value the really good ones you’ve got. Despite his frustrating failures, time and again, to stick to his convictions, the audience is always reminded that Pinocchio is a good kid and he ultimately proves himself worthy of being real boy by doing everything in his power to save his father’s life. Pinocchio is guided along the way by vagabond-turned-conscience, Jiminy Cricket; his wry, sassy, and supportive sidekick who earned every bit of the expanded role he was given in this film. Despite being the voice of reason and morality in “Pinocchio”, Jiminy is far from perfect and has his own flaws and shortcomings as a person to navigate through. He abandons Pinocchio twice, once out of temper, and is also kind of vain at the start: desiring a badge from the Blue Fairy and deciding not to seek help from Gepetto, which could have saved them both a lot of trouble, in favor of not being a ‘snitch’. Still, Jiminy is as true a friend as you can get, following Pinocchio through all sorts of nightmarish scenarios, all the way to the bottom of the sea. Amusingly, Jiminy also has quite an eye for the ladies, particularly human women, despite, y’know, being a cricket.

Pinocchio Star

Being the first of several single fathers in the Disney canon, the kindly, absent-minded woodcarver Gepetto brings a strong, paternal warmth to the film, grounding an otherwise fantastical movie with the comfort and familiarity of home, waiting to be found again by our hero. Despite the sentimental old guy not appearing much outside the first act, he ends up being one of the more memorable, loving father figures from the House of Mouse. Gepetto is accompanied by his faithful pet, the stroppy, long-suffering kitten Figaro, who is quite the scene-stealer with his short-tempered antics; it’s easy to see why the mischievous kitten was later made a recurring character in the Mickey Mouse shorts, as Minnie Mouse’s cat. The benevolent Blue Fairy, who animates Pinocchio, only appears in person twice in the film, but her influence reaches throughout. Curiously enough, she looks like Snow White all grown up (and apparently they shared the same animator). Instead of a single, overarching villain, “Pinocchio” has a string of increasingly dangerous antagonists, many of whom prey upon on Pinocchio’s lack of worldly experience in a manner most disturbing. You have two illiterate, small-time conmen, Honest John and Gideon; a larger-than-life, child-abusing showman, Stromboli; local bully and ruffian (but genuine friend to Pinocchio), Lampwick; a satanic slave driver in the Coachman; and a sperm whale with serious rage issues, Monstro. About half of these guys never get their storylines wrapped-up neatly or receive any sort of justice for their evil. Monstro beams himself to death on some rocks and Honest John receives some preemptive, well-deserved abuse from Gideon with a mallet, but guys like Stromboli and the Coachman simply carry on with their lives after their brief encounters with Pinocchio. In some ways, the lack of closure makes these figures more real though, and ties into some of the more cynical acknowledgements the movie makes. These characters do have lives beyond being villains in a wooden boy’s story, and in real life, not every villain gets their due. Not every one can.

Pinocchio Storm

If there’s one thing you can say about the animation in “Pinocchio” it’s that it has plenty of character. “Pinocchio” was produced during the golden age of animation, a time when much of a character’s personality was portrayed non-verbally through the animation, with longing stares, thoughtful, precise movements and sharp double-takes (in fact, not long after this Disney would try their hand at an experimental film where the animation does most of the work telling the story, “Bambi”). There are times when the film catches you off-guard with the sheer craftsmanship and ingenuity of the storyboarding, like the detailed pan-ins of Pinocchio’s village, Jiminy Cricket’s energetic POV shots, and Monstro’s entire, massive girth crashing and barreling across the screen in a rage. When it comes to the character designs of the humans, Disney has improved from their first attempt in “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves”, but there are still a few cases that wander into Uncanny Valley territory, like human Pinocchio at the end (who ironically looks stranger than puppet Pinocchio). When it comes to the soundtrack, “Pinocchio” is one of those Disney works where the songs and the score blend well together, to the point where the songs feel more like an extension of the score than an interlude. I’m especially fond of how the score in the first act keeps returning to the melody of Gepetto’s lullaby, “Little Wooden Head” (along with that term of endearment later being juxtaposed with Stromboli’s cruelty towards the puppet), and how several of the songs involve characters scatting and improvising, like “Hi Diddly Di (An Actor’s Life For Me)”. The most famous song of the bunch is of course “When You Wish Upon A Star”, which I never knew was performed by Jiminy Cricket himself before discovering this movie. Lastly, I want to commend the foley work done in this movie, which I don’t usually draw attention to, for arranging such a diverse cacophony of sounds for Gepetto’s workshop at the start.

So all in all, “Pinocchio” is a surprisingly early magnum opus for Walt Disney Animation Studios. As I said, the quality starts to drop in the last twenty minutes with an ending that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s easily one of the strongest films produced by the studio during their golden and silver age.

Side-Notes:

Monstro

* There is a surprisingly large amount of butt jokes in this family film from 1940 (Stromboli could teach Ursula a few things about “body language”), and this honestly made me smile. Some things never change.

* ‘My pets, you don’t like the name I picked for Pinocchio? Well, screw both of you, I’m keeping it’.

* “Oh, Figaro. I left the window open” Why are you so lazy, Gepetto? Close it yourself, bro.

* “QUIET!!!”

* As I live and breathe, a real fairy. Mmm-hmm!”.

* “I’m dreaming in my sleep! Wake me up! Wake me up!” Alright.

* If Cleo gets lung cancer, she knows who to blame.

* I sometimes wish we could have seen more of the culture of Pinocchio’s little Italian village. What bit we do see looks pretty neat.

* “Go ahead! Make a fool of yourself! Maybe then you’ll listen to your conscience!” Jiminy Cricket feeling salty.

* Stromboli actually freaking screeches and reeeees when Pinocchio face-plants. Oh my god.

* “I guess he doesn’t need me. What does an actor want with a conscience anyway?” Dat burn.

* “Buck up, son. It could be worse. Be cheerful, like me!“.

* It’s funny Pinocchio’s nose growing is considered a signature part of this story, when it really only occurs once.

* “Goodbye Mr. Stromboli!” Pinocchio, no!

* Why do I feel like Pinocchio is always going to have a distaste for actors from now on?

* A rather disturbing background detail (that it took me a while to catch) is Gideon being prepared to clobber Pinocchio with his mallet if Honest John doesn’t win him over his lies. On that note, I’m really glad the two cart him off and practically kidnap him (not like that), because if Pinocchio had willingly went with them after they set him up with Stromboli before, he’d have gone from being a naive puppet to a really thick one.

* Lampwick gives zero fucks about Honest John, Pinocchio.

* Children get labeled jackasses several times in this movie. Add that to the growing list of things Disney could get away in the past that they never could now.

* I felt compelled to share these, because I think they’re cute. Lampwick was only a part of this film for fifteen minutes, but like Figaro, the miscreant left quite an impression and I found myself almost missing him for the remaining twenty.

* So Pinocchio and Jiminy are going to at least try to do something about Pleasure Island after the film, right? Because now that they know the secret of what goes on there – child trafficking – it would be pretty messed up if they just kept that to themselves forever.

* “Father! Wait, he ain’t my father. Mr. Gepetto!”

* Gepetto hugs that fish and then tosses it to the side. A master of mixed signals.

* When Pinocchio tries to outswim Monstro and leaps out of the sea, he gets so much air. That puppet was trying his best to get away. Likewise, Pinocchio wastes absolutely no time thinking up an escape plan and putting it into action (he learned about fire in Act I and his pal Lampwick taught him how to wreck some shit in Act II), since he has no intention of staying inside a whale’s stomach for longer than five minutes. Good lad.

* “Father, why are you crying?” “Because you’re dead, Pinocchio” “No, I’m not” “Yes you are, now lie down”.

Further Reading:

* Nostalgia Critic; The Animation Commendation; The Animation Commendation (2)AnimatedKid; Taestful ReviewsSilver Petticoat; Author Quest; Jess’s Somewhat Grown-Up Type BlogAll The Disney Movies; Disney In Your Day; Tor; Jaysen Headley Writes; The Disney Odyssey; Disneyfied Or Disney Tried?; Roger Erbert; A113 Animation; This Is Random, ButA Year With Walt; A Year Of A Million Dreams; Blackbird’s Nest; Fernby FilmsCokieBlum; Milmon Movies; Drew Martin Writes; Movie Feast; Doctor Film; Mr. Movie; Bibliophonic; Predictability Of Stupidity; Diamond In Rough Coal; NixPix; Eddie On Film; KniggitHak’s Reviews; B Plus Movie Blog; Ten Stars Or Less; Film Music Central (1); Film Music Central (2); Film Music Central (3); Standing On My NeckReviews Of Films; The Mouse For Less; Geeks Of Doom; Mighty Mike’s Raging Reviews; A Nerd Goes To The Movies; 1001: A Film Odyssey; Filmnomenon.

Fanart:

* Caraloukimba; Rain1940; Rain1940 (2); Bonnie Marie; GootasticKumu18; Bartholomew GarciaSilver BenCaleb-Eshetu; Ryougalolakie; Ryougalolakie (2)Brant5Studios; Brant5StudiosAlways Slightly HazyPrince KidoRebenkeCybzilla; Scarfowl; Coffee Bandit; Coffee Bandit (2); Coffee Bandit (3)Dr. Zime; Jojo Seames; The Vold; Chico 2013Cathy86; ChocomooseJayfoxfireBilly The BrainJohn Devlin; Nippy13; Orphen5Kat The GreatLisa 24-7; Jrodri21; Rob-LightningRozhalina; Rozhalina (2); BBLampwickBBLampwick (2); BBLampwick (3)BBLampwick (4); BBLampwick (5).; BBLampwick (6); BBLampwick (7)BBLampwick (8).

Fanfiction:

Honest John

Posted in Disney | 3 Comments

Frozen (2013)

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I’ve been wanting to talk about “Frozen” for a while now. “Frozen”, to me, is easily one of Disney’s strongest films from the 21st century. I mentioned a few reviews back that a lot of the films from the post-Renaissance era and the early Disney revival felt lacking. Very few of them were terrible, but many felt content to be average. Films like “Bolt”, “Winnie the Pooh” and “Tangled” hardly did anything especially charming, unique, innovative or memorable. “Wreck It Ralph” and “Frozen” were the first Disney films in about a decade to really go that extra mile and be something special, and “Zootopia” was the point where I officially agreed with the general public that Disney had gotten it’s groove back. However, since 2013, “Frozen” has since been incredibly overexposed, receiving tons of publicity from the press, merchandise of all kinds from the Disney company, and feedback from fans and detractors alike. It’s been dissected many, many times over as either one of Disney’s greatest works, or an overhyped, overrated sham, to the point where a lot of people are burned out on it now, along with everyone talking about it. And honestly, as much as I like “Frozen”, I can’t say I blame them. Still, I’m here to offer my opinions on the film, it’s flaws and merits.

Elsa

“Frozen”respectfully deals with some pretty hefty subjects like fractured family ties, anxiety, and the consequences of isolation. Basically, the royal family of Arendelle teaches us all how not to deal with childhood trauma. After their daughters have a near-fatal magic accident, the king and queen instruct their eldest daughter to control her abilities with the Bambi method of closing herself off and suppressing her emotions as a proper royal should, which does nothing for her over the years except stunt her development, all while keeping the girls sealed away from the outside world and Anna locked out of the loop. By the time Anna comes of age, there’s really no reason to continue keeping the secret from her, but by this point Elsa has succumbed to her fears and given up on herself, even after her and Anna are the only family members still alive. By the time Anna and Elsa are women, neither of them are anywhere near prepared to take on the outside world – Elsa is a nervous wreck while Anna is so starved of love, affection and company from her family that she rushes into a relationship to try to fill the void – so everything goes to hell in a handbasket on their first day interacting with the kingdom. Anna and Elsa’s respective character arcs in the film are all about finding their way back from this.

Let It Go

Disney’s version of the Snow Queen is a benevolent Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Being one of the more powerful characters in the Disney multiverse, with her powers tied to her emotions and a tenuous grip on them, Elsa finds herself scrambling for control throughout the film. Her signature song, “Let It Go”, can so easily be taken out of context as an empowering power ballad that it’s easy to forget that in the film itself it actually serves a purpose similar to “Hakuna Matata”: a protagonist at their lowest point, fooling themselves into thinking running away from their past and secluding themselves in the wilderness forever is a good, permanent solution to their problems. With that much having been said, “Let It Go” is still a pivotal point in Elsa’s character arc; it’s the first time since she was a girl that she embraces her powers, starts to value them and simply lets herself be. It’s a good first step, but it’s not enough. Elsa loses her newfound confidence not long after this, and it’s Anna’s love and devotion that pushes her the rest of the way to being free to express herself wholeheartedly. I do love the implication in “Let It Go” and the siege on her fortress (where she tries to straight-up murder the Duke’s men with her powers) that Elsa has a lot of repressed anger about how cruel her life has been, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jennifer Lee and company flesh out her personality further in “Frozen 2”, now that she no longer has to fear killing anyone she talks to (something they’ve already begun to do in “Frozen Fever”).

For The First Time In Forever

Elsa’s sister, Anna, may not be the Snow Queen, but she is, in many ways, the beating heart of “Frozen”. A fun-loving, spirited, impulsive young woman, Princess Anna doesn’t always make the best decisions (in fact, some of them are really foolish), but she has as good a heart as any and has been burned many times over the last thirteen years. After she accidentally outs her sister to the kingdom, Anna embarks on a perilous quest through the mountains, facing all kinds of beasts with some boys she found along the way, her boys, to bring her sister home. Anna’s fierce loyalty and her sense of responsibility are her two most admirable traits. Despite Elsa appearing to be an incredibly selfish person for at least the last few years, from the moment Anna discovers her true nature she wastes no time pursuing her old childhood friend and never gives up on her throughout the film, despite there being some times I know she wanted to. Anna learns her own lessons during the trip, like the importance of not rushing into things, for her first love might not be her true love, and how to be patient, thoughtful and supportive for Elsa. By the climax, it actually hurts watching her die, petrifying from the inside out, so like Elsa I’d consider Anna a success as a protagonist (though I do wonder why her first reaction to finding a talking snowman is to kick it’s head off).

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While “Frozen” is fairly humorous in the first act, the comedy factor doubles once Anna has someone else to play off of, namely Kristoff. The surly, knowledgeable mountain man with a reindeer for a buddy serves as the rugged straight man in a gang of oddballs, which makes it all the more endearing once Kristoff begins to soften and we learn he has quite a few quirks of his own, having been raised by trolls with little to no sense of personal space. On the surface, Anna and Kristoff’s growing spark seems like an opposites-attract type of deal, but like Ariel and Eric, the two actually have a lot of in common. They’re both loyal, courageous individuals who feel a good deal of responsibility for the people around them and wind up bonding a lot during their adventure. I’d say both of them wound up with quite the catch by the movie’s end. Olaf, who I think has surpassed Elsa as the film’s mascot, could easily have been an annoying, overdone character, but instead makes for a nice addition to the cast. A quirky, optimistic snowman who provides the film with some silly comic relief and gives the sisters, who he has some history with, a helping hand. Olaf’s goal in the film is pretty weird though and kind of a stretch. This snowman somehow knows all these intimate details about summer but doesn’t know he’ll fucking die if he experiences it (mind you, considering that ‘happy snowman’ gag he could just be in denial). Lastly, his friendship with Sven, the reindeer steed, is so precious.

Kristoff 2

My thoughts on the Duke of Weselton? It’s a good thing he’s not the actual baddie, or he would be a really lame villain. As a secondary antagonist and a red herring, he’s pretty good though. A scheming little weasel with muscle to back him up, looking for any and every opportunity to cause unrest in Arrendelle. It’s also a nice touch that Prince Hans is basically a far more crafty and successful echo of the Duke, showing that while the world can be every bit as wonderful and exciting as Anna dreamed, it can also be dangerous. Upon rewatch, that seemingly innocuous shot of Hans catching Anna by the wrist becomes a lot more unsettling once you know he’s playing her and making his move while she’s at her most vulnerable. In fact, the animation for Hans’ expressions becomes subtly, progressively creepier, perhaps falser throughout the film, the closer we get to the reveal. I really like the twist of Hans being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hungry for power, but what I don’t like is Hans turning into an evil villain cliche as soon as he drops the act, monologuing his plot to Anna and leaving the room before she’s even dead yet. Scar playing a long con and making rookie mistakes right when he’s at his endgame was every bit as stupid, but at least that felt like his envy and vindictive streak catching up to him. Here, it’s pretty clear that the only reason Hans does this is because the plot would stop dead if he didn’t get cocky / sloppy. It’s a bit too contrived, but he’s still a great villain for the type of film “Frozen” is.

Anna and Kristoff

Something I enjoy about “Frozen” is that it has a nice, long leisurely runtime, reminiscent of the slower pace Disney movies had during Walt’s time. Disney films started to become a lot more fast-paced and ambitious during the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, and there were definitely some films from that period that I felt could have used an extra ten to fifteen minutes to breathe, so it’s nice to see some of the more recent films in the canon like “Frozen” and “Zootopa” slow it down and drop what I suspect was a fear that children would lose interest if a film exceeded eighty-five minutes. “Frozen’s” slow burn pays off masterfully in the third act, when the threat level ramps up from all sides: Elsa’s increasingly unstable powers, treacherous men, Anna’s curse. The 3-D animation is rendered impressively as well. Like “Monsters University” from the same year, there are times when the graphics and direction in “Frozen” are simply divine: the Broadway-eqsue joy coursing through every shot in “The First Time In Forever”, the runaway romanticism of “Love It Is Open Door”, ice trailing behind Elsa as she runs across the fjord and her sleek, shimmering flurries blowing through the night in “Let It Go”, the attack on her vibrant castle. In regards to the soundtrack, I feel like one of the best choices made during production was hiring Kristin Bell and Indina Menzel as Anna and Elsa, because whenever they get to sing they provide “Frozen” with some of the best vocal talent Disney has had since the Renaissance. Their songs are quite rightly seen as the highlights of the film; elsewhere, “Frozen Heart” gets the movie off to a surprisingly foreboding start with a warning to “beware the frozen heart” that might have more than one meaning, “Vuelie” joins a growing list of harmonious native chants in the Disney canon, and songs like “In Summer” and “Fixer Upper” manage to be completely ridiculous but actually kind of sweet.

The most commonly asked question about “Frozen” is whether it deserves to be regarded as one of Disney’s classics, and honestly I’d say that it does. The plot is fresh, the animation is stellar, the characters are adorable and there are plenty of feels to be had. It’s one of the highlights of 21st century Disney.

Side-Notes:

happy-snowman-2

* If Anna and Elsa had been a bit more knowledgeable about Disney movie formulas, they would never have let their parents walk out that door.

* “I know it ends tomorrow, so it has to be today! Cause for the first time in forever, for the first time in forever, nothing in my waaayyyyy!”

* “I love crazy“.

* “Elsa, please, I can’t live like this anymore!” “Then leave” Not gonna lie, if my sister stopped talking to me for over a decade, even after our parents died, and she said that to me I’d verbally rip her butt to shreds in front of dozens of strangers, queen or not. Anna and Elsa’s public meltdown could have been much worse than it was.

* “My power flurries through the air into the ground! My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around! And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast! I’m never going back, THE PAST IS IN THE PAST!”.

* “Let It Go” ends on something of a sinister note (“The cold never bothered me anyway”), so when I first saw this film I immediately wondered ‘is she gonna descend into evil now? Is that where this film is going?’. Obviously, that wasn’t the case but it does feel like a bit of remnant from when “Let It Go” was intended as a villain song for Elsa.

* On their way up the North Mountain, Anna and Kristoff are accosted by wolves (“IT”S TRUE LOVE!!!”; “Christopher!” “It’s Kristoff-OW!”). I suspect this scene is a “Beauty and the Beast” parody.

* “But I just paid it off”.

* “But you won’t get your new sled if she’s dead”.

* “Oh, I am going to talk to my sister”.

* “Knock. Just knock. Why isn’t she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?”.

* “Does it look bad?” “…No” “You hesitated”.

* “He’s crazy. I’ll distract him while you run. Hey, Sven’s family, it’s nice to meet you! Anna, because I love you, I insist you run. I understand you’re love experts. Why aren’t you running?!” Girl almost ran too.

* Those trolls want to get Kristoff married off so badly that they not only suggest he off Hans but they actually try to trick Anna into marrying him. Dudes, calm down. Also, why is blondness unmanly?

* I know Elsa regretted making herself some ice heels when she had to haul ass up all those stairs.

* Hans sees one of the Duke’s goons trying to kill Elsa and thinks ‘NO! I’m the villain of this movie, Elsa is MY kill!’.

* “Oh Anna, if only there was someone who loved you” The irony being that the climax is comprised of literally everyone worrying about Anna.

* “Love is… putting someone else’s needs before yours, like how Kristoff brought you back here to Hans and left you forever”.

* Anna stops Kristoff from jumping Hans so she can deck him herself. I wholeheartedly approve.

* After some trepidation, Queen Elsa’s subjects come to accept her, abilities and all. That is a really fortunate outcome, considering the worst case scenario was that “Kill The Beast” song from “Beauty and the Beast”.

* Sven got swag. So much swag.

* I actually do recommend checking out “Frozen Fever” and the “Lego Frozen: Northern Lights” special at some point. Not because they’re anything great – they’re pure fluff that gives Anna and Elsa’s sister bond more time to shine – but because its nice to see Disney having fun poking fun at this franchise. At one point, drunk Elsa even shows up.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

frozen-gang

Fanfics:

Posted in Disney, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Robin Hood (1973)

Roin Hood

“Robin Hood” is one hell of a good romp (or a lark, as Robin himself would say). It’s one of my favorites from Disney’s ‘dark age’, and one of the funniest films I’ve found in the Disney Canon. For the bulk of the film, “Robin Hood” sports a folksy, friendly, laidback and almost ludicrous tone, from our heroes swindling Prince John in drag to Klucky turning into a football star in the middle of a brawl, which makes for a very effective tonal shift when the movie takes a dark and grim turn in the last act. Like many of the films from the xerox era (“The Jungle Book”, “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”), “Robin Hood” lives and dies on the charm, humor and overall likability of it’s colorful cast, rather than the depth and intricacy of the animation like the golden and silver eras of Disney animation. In fact, the movie’s greatest pro is probably the strong sense of community it gets across. The supporting characters have as much presence in the film as Robin Hood and Little John, perhaps even more. They’re all bonded in suffering, they all loathe their tyrant king, they support Robin Hood’s bravehearted rebellion, and by the end, there’s a sense that it’s not just Robin and Johnny fighting corruption anymore, so there’s a number of heartwarming moments in the film.

Robin Hood

If we’re gonna discuss our leading man, we gotta talk about dem fox eyes, because you never really know what to expect when it comes to Robin’s expressions in this movie, and some of them are priceless. Disney’s take on Robin Hood is a flawed, honorable character; a charming, swashbuckling, lovesick daredevil who pushes his luck til it finally runs out. He also has some nice chemistry with his girl, Maid Marian, due to them already having a preexisting relationship rather than the film having to build one from the ground up. Little John has a familiar voice actor, Phil Harris in his third consecutive role in a Disney film. Personality-wise, Robin Hood’s rowdy yet sensible right-hand man is quite a way away from Harris’ first gig as hipster layabout Baloo, but the jazz star is as personable as always here, providing our hero with a nice foil (and a good guy dynamic I like even more than I do the Baloo / Bagheera one). The rest of the do-gooders comprise of some nosy scamps, a musically inclined narrator, a feisty Scottish hen (love her), and a kindly, hot-tempered holy man. On the shady side of things, Pat Buttram lends the slick, detestable, wily Sheriff of Nottingham his best feature, dat southern accent (it adds a surprising amount to the brutish blackguard’s character. It’s also hot). The interesting thing about the main villain, Prince John, is that in hindsight, he’s a more pathetic predecessor to the baddie from “The Lion King”, Scar. An envious, cowardly, power-hungry lion who wants to dispose of his dear brother so he can seize the throne. Peter Ustinov chews so much scenery as P.J. that he’s a thoroughly enjoyable villain, and as the movie progresses and his humiliation increases, we see him slip further and further into insanity, to the point where he becomes a genuinely frightening foe.

Stronghold

Times were tough for Disney when this film was produced, so the animation isn’t nearly as polished as previous efforts from the silver era. The outlines are noticeably sharp, and like all films from this period, animation is reused in places (particularly, “The Phony Prince of England” which borrows from “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves”, “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats”). Other than that, it’s all good. The character movements are quite fluid – delightfully frenzied at times – and the backgrounds are perfectly atmospheric. Prince John’s stronghold is both regal and imposing, Nottingham is desolate and downtrodden, and Sherwood Forest is a safe haven straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, the rustic look of this film almost suits it, much like “Oliver and Company’s” rough, grungy aesthetic. Nowadays, I think this film is the reason why I’m rarely ever bothered by anachronisms in Disney movies. I’m pretty sure “Robin Hood” takes place in a universe where animals not only rule the earth, but medieval Nottingham is located in the deep south; partly because of all the southern accents and partly because of the twangy country music soundtrack. Blending two cultures the way “Robin Hood” does seems like it really shouldn’t work, but it turned out to be a shrewd decision, especially in regards to the soundtrack. “Whistle Stop” puts the movie’s walk cycles and run cycles to good use, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come; “Love” is spellbinding, “The Phony Prince of England” livens up the film while Frank Miller’s crooning in “Not In Nottingham” takes it to it’s a lowest point, and “Ooo-De-Lally” is something of an earworm. George Bruns’ underrated score also gives the film a playful liveliness befitting a movie that doesn’t take itself entirely seriously.

Robin Hood 3

“Robin Hood” isn’t as much of a show-stopper as the next two movies I’ll be reviewing, but the cult classic from the 70’s is an excellent pick when you’re in the mood for something fun.

Side-Notes:

Robin Hood 6

* I think we were all shocked the day we realized “Whistle Stop” spawned “The Hamster Dance”.

* “This crown gives me a feeling of power. POWER! Forgive me a cruel chuckle. Power“.

* “I’ve been robbed” “Of course you’ve been robbed!”.

* Poor Sir Hiss.

* “He snitched on us”.

* I love the way that scene progresses between Marian and the kids. One minute, they’re all scared stiff of the Lady Marian, the next they’re flapping their gums about how they’re friends with an outlaw, asking her questions about her love life and whether or not she and Robin are gonna have kids. Things escalated so quickly.

* “My trap is baited and set, and then revenge. REVENGE!”

* “Oh no, forgive me but I lose more jewels that way”.

* Why isn’t there a soundtrack to this movie? Get on that, Disney.

* “Oh, by the way, I hear you’ve been having some trouble catching old Robin Hood” (oooohhhh) “He’s scared of me, that’s what it is! You see he didn’t how show up here today! I can spot him through his phony disguises”.

* “Not so hard, you mean thing!” Hate sex.

* “Help, Robin, help!”.

* “KILL HIM!!! STOP THE GIRL!!!”.

* “Yep, I’m in here too”. That sucks, man.

* “Things can’t get any worse.” Why Friar, why?

* “GET OUT OF MY CHURCH!” Kick his ass, Friar!

* “Wait a minute, is the safety still on old Betsy?” “You bet it is, Sheriff” “That’s what I’m afraid of. You go first”.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

Robin Hood 4

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Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp Poster 2

“Lady and the Tramp” is another one of those movies that’s a fond memory for me. I’d seen “Robin Hood” and “Brother Bear” before it and loved them both (not to mention, “Balto” and “The Land Before Time”), but “Lady and the Tramp” was the one that sparked my interest in animation in 2006, when the fiftieth anniversary DVD was released. There were a number of featurettes on it detailing the production of the film and watching them is what made it click to me that animation is art imitating life, that a lot of work is put into it, and that’s when I really started to pay attention.

“Lady and the Tramp” was the first of Disney’s features to be released in CinemaScope, and I have to say, widescreen is a damn good look for Disney. The grander sense of scope and scale allows the film to show off it’s lush, iridescent backgrounds and easily establish it’s universe. Interestingly enough, although “Lady and the Tramp” is remembered as a love story and Disney promotes it as one, the romantic part doesn’t enter the equation until halfway through. Like “Bambi”, “Lady and the Tramp” tells a life story through the eyes of animals, but unlike “Bambi”, the leads are not thinly sketched but are characterized strongly, allowing the film to stave off “Bambi’s” greatest flaw: tedium. They’re hybrids of sorts, between naturalistic canines and anthropomorphic ones, and they embody all the traits people associate with man’s best friend – courage, loyalty, curiosity, contriteness – while still being their own definable characters. Brave, devoted, adorable Lady (particularly puppy Lady). Playful, mischievous, trouble-making Tramp. Proud, supportive and a bit classist Jock and Trusty. The character animation is key to making this approach work and it’s as solid as the background work. The movements are quite sprightly throughout the film and there are times, like Tramp’s fight with the dogs, where you can you actually feel tension. That’s awesome. Which isn’t to say that the animation is all flawless. There is that odd reveal of Jim Dear and Darling’s baby, which resembles a baby doll more than it does a newborn. But for the most part, it’s all very impressive.

Morning

Favorite scene in the movie.

Our leading lady spends half of the film experiencing what many dogs do, a sense of her home being upheaved and her own self being displaced by a newcomer in the family, the Darlings’ baby. She honestly envies the stranger for a while before eventually coming to accept him in all his cuteness, which segues quite nicely into her new dilemma in the second half of the film. Along with the canine angle, the relationship between the two leads is a large part of what makes this film unique in the Disney Canon. It’s one of the first Disney romances where the guy and the girl hooking up isn’t the end of the story; the happily ever after. There’s still some conflict after it happens, conflict between them. It’s also one of the first Disney films to suggest that having a fling or a relationship with a guy you just met has it’s risks.

In contrast to the hellish day she’d been having before, and arguably the rocky months before then, Lady has one of the best nights of her life seeing the town, bonding with her street dog friend, Tramp, and pretty soon she’s smitten with a kind, courageous, carefree and chivalrous bad boy. And he is with her, despite their ideological differences. Come the serene morning after, the film even implies they slept together. She can’t run away with him like he’d like her to, but perhaps they can keep in touch? However, it’s here that the magic dies. Tramp’s hell-raising attitude gets her nabbed by the dog catcher and while she’s behind bars, her fellow inmates sing her a very informative song about how her new man is a player, leaving her feeling horrified and betrayed. If the film’s subtext was risque before this moment, it’s full-on adult now. Feeling like she’s just his latest conquest, Lady regrets ever loving him or giving him her virginity, so she tells him to go fuck himself when he visits her later, and this is honestly something I really like about the film. Over the last few days, Lady has come to really like Tramp, and up until now she hasn’t wanted to choose between him and her ties to her family (including the baby that she’s only just recently warmed to), but she’s perfectly willing to do so when she thinks he’s no good for her, showing a respectable amount of self-respect. Tramp, of course, isn’t really a bad dog, just a bit selfish. It’s only when he nearly gets himself killed helping Lady protect the youngest member of her family that she’s convinced his feelings for her are genuine and he gets another shot. And it’s when he settles down and learns to commit (giving up the increasingly fatal life of a street dog for a chance to make things work his pidge) that their relationship flourishes. “Lady and the Tramp” is a simple, old-fashioned love story, but the message here is timeless: that love is selfless, and sometimes it means being the best you can be. It’s a notion Disney would return to in a far more extreme way in “Beauty and the Beast”.

Jock And Trusty

The songs don’t tend to stick around for very long in this movie, but they’re all lovely; thanks in no small part to Peggy Lee, whose contributions range from a comforting lullaby (“La La Lu”) to a saucy flapper number (“He’s A Tramp”). “The Siamese Cat Song” is the first ‘rational guy chases asshole’ type of Disney song, as I like to call them. They’re not all that common but they’re always so fun and crazy (“Why Should I Worry?” and “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” would succeed and surpass it). The most memorable piece and the highlight of the film is the main theme, “Bella Notte”, a soulful serenade that helps to sell the bliss of young love. It’s not surprising really that the love song is the best of the bunch. Ever since Bambi and Faline frolicked through the fields in “I Bring You Song”, Disney has excelled at their love songs (“Love”, “Kiss The Girl”, “A Whole New World”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc). Oliver Wallace’s soft score also gives the film a cozy, comfortable feeling throughout with the occasional bit of fear and dread creeping in towards the end.

In short, “Lady and the Tramp” is a beautiful movie. “Pinocchio” may have usurped it as my favorite film from Walt’s era, but I still have a great deal of love and respect for it and I always will.

Side-Notes:

Beautiful Night

* “So take the love of your loved one, you’ll need it about this time, to keep from falling like a star, as you make that dizzy climb! For this is the night, and the heavens are right, on this lovely Belle Notte!”

* I love that when Lady gets a new collar, her first impulse is to run next door and show off that bling.

* I think it was Unshaved Mouse who noticed a lot of Disney protagonists get scenes of them being nice to children to establish they’re good guys. Tramp gets one early on, and it’s cute.

Lady’s pitch-perfect reaction to her master calling her ‘that dog‘.

* Thanks to Trusty, I’m quite fond of calling our heroine ‘Ms. Lady’.

* “What’s a baby?” “Just a cute little bundle… of trouble” Yeah, guess who fathers Scamp?

* I’ve always found it funny how Jim Dear and Darling spend eight months or so eagerly awaiting the birth of their child, and then a couple of weeks after the baby arrives, they entrust it with Aunt Sarah so they can go on vacation. It wore them out quickly, didn’t it?

* It’s up to you how racist or offensive Si and Am are in the final film, it varies with each person, but the concept art is especially bad.

* “Uh-huh, it’s a free sample.” You get in on that con, Lady.

* “But Tony, dogs don’t talk” “HE’S A-TALKING TO ME!”

* Lady and the Tramp getting nabbed by the dog catcher is most certainly worrying, but when you think about it it might have been karma, seeing as how their trip to the zoo the day before nearly put a beaver in the hospital and most certainly got some guy arrested for assaulting an officer.

* “There, there Ms. Lady, some of the finest people I’ve ever tracked down were jailbirds”.

* Trusty’s battle howl is unintentionally hilarious.

* Thank the gods Trusty didn’t die; he’s easily one of the best characters in this movie.

* Something else this film has in common with “Bambi”: there’s a nice bit of mood whiplash when the movie jumps from Trusty’s near-death experience to a happy Christmas Eve.

* Scamp is an annoying little brat, and he not only got his own comic strip (that ran for thirty years, no less) but his own movie. Wow.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

Lullaby

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Brother Bear (2003)

Brother Bear Poster 2

I grew up during the 2000’s era of Disney, the time when Disney tried to move away from the tired Renaissance formula with a series of surreal, experimental films, and while I liked some of them, “Brother Bear” was the only one to have a real impact on me. Michael Eisner’s attempts to make a “boy’s movie” finally paid off, but not without a few drawbacks. I’ve read all the negative reviews for “Brother Bear”, and I don’t deny the movie has it’s flaws, like a foreseeable plot point or the rather odd structure the film has. The first act is essentially twenty-three minutes of well done set-up, and the story really begins on Kenai’s first day as a bear, swapping the human world and the human cast for an animal’s perspective. The majority of “Brother Bear” is, for better or for worse, a completely different movie, and how you feel about it really does boil down to how much you like Kenai and Koda (and perhaps Rutt and Tuke). Luckily, I like them. I like them a lot.

Transformation

After his eldest brother is killed in a lethal bear attack, main character Kenai slays the beast for revenge and is turned into an animal, so he can walk a mile in a bear’s shoes. For the first half of the film, Kenai is a macho, immature, short-tempered (but fun-loving) dick who’s not that fond of our fellow omnivores, bears; but through a spiritual journey, he starts to broaden his perspective, move past his brother’s passing, and in time mature (not to mention, lighten up). It all feels natural for the kind of guy he is and I found myself very invested in his arc; partly because this movie can get damn intense. Interestingly enough, although there’s no real ‘villain’ in “Brother Bear”, one could easily argue Kenai is the real antagonist of this movie, since he causes the entire plot to happen. Even his increasingly mad-with-grief brother trying to kill him and Koda throughout the movie is itself a consequence of his actions. Indeed, Kenai’s discovery that he’s dug himself into a hole and hurt everyone closest to him (indirectly causing Sitka’s death, making Koda an orphan, planting the seeds for Denahi’s madness), with nary a thing he can now to do to fix it is what sets him apart as a protagonist – few Disney characters hit that low a point. And in a nice inverse of the usual liar-revealed plot, Kenai chooses to tell Koda everything about him, because his young friend deserves to know the truth about his mother. In the end, he redeems himself with an ending that’s not only the perfect fit but also the very antithesis of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Like Kathjohns619 said in her thoughts on the film, for such a dark movie, the final message of “Brother Bear” is quite optimistic.

Kenai and Koda 2

Jeremy Suarez has impeccable comic timing as Koda. Right from the off, when he’s beating our lead with a stick, he’s hilarious (“It’s no use. The only way to get down is to chew your own foot off.”). I think the thing I like the most about our rather lonely, talkative bear cub is not just the chipper presence he has in the film, but how plainspoken he is. He’s the type to tell it how it is, and that’s exactly the sort of friend Kenai needs (if not the one he wants at first) and in time, Kenai warms to the cub and starts to treat him much the way I imagine his brothers treated him when he was young. In fact, the budding friendship between Kenai and Koda is the reason why “Brother Bear” resonated with me for over a decade when other Post-Renaissance films didn’t. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and at the time, I had never seen anything like it before in a Disney movie. Sibling love, conventional or otherwise, is something Disney’s begun to explore in depth since the new millennium, in films like “Lilo and Stitch”, “Brother Bear”, “Wreck It Ralph”, “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen“, and I have to say, I love this trend. Because I adore the bond that forms between our two leads, smallish bear and his adoptive big bro, the last act is one of the saddest and most touching things I’ve seen from Disney. In a rather painful parallel to Kenai conquering his fear of bears and learning the world isn’t as simple as he thought, poor Koda discovers his traveling buddy is really one of the big bad hunters he fears and has cost him dearly. He’s forced to see him as either a heartless killer or a friend who fucked up, and when the time comes he spares him the fate of being gutted by his brother (one many wouldn’t begrudge him of) because he doesn’t want to lose anyone else close to him (also because he’s a badass).

McKenzie moose, Rutt and Tuke, strike a nice balance between being affable and being self-involved. They’re quite funny, they tie into the movie’s theme of brotherhood, and they help to move the plot forward, but I’d be lying if I said the wandering pair of easy-going, obtuse moose couldn’t feel a bit superflous in the grand scheme of things. In regards to Kenai’s siblings, I think it’s a nice touch that Sitka manages to influence the plot even after death. Despite caring for them deeply, after blood has been spilt Sitka decides to show his bros some tough love and let the pair fight it out for much of the movie so they can grow from the experience, which gives this benevolent character a stern edge and the film another interesting element that pays off at the end.

Denahi

Wilderness of danger and beauty.

From Kenai’s transformation onwards, “Brother Bear” has a rich, warm, earthy color palette that’s suitably picturesque and quite soothing for a wilderness film (complete with shimmering auroras). It’s also around the salmon run scenes that I start to realize how much I like the film’s sense of humor (“Quit telling everyone I’m dead!”). Phil Collins, Tina Turner, and the Blind Boys Of Alabama provide the songs for the movie, and they’re very effective for the most part; oftentimes powerful. Collins singing with Kenai and Koda’s inner voices works well for “On My Way” and “Welcome”, but not as much for “No Way Out”, which, for a bit, makes Kenai’s confession feel like a Phil Collins music video. In addition to the songs, Collins and Mark Mancina compose a primal, percussion-laden score for the film with stirring, woodwind renditions of “No Way Out”, “On My Way”, and “Look Through My Eyes” cropping up from time to time, marking the characters’ progress. The final and strongest song of the lot, “Look Through My Eyes”, manages to cap off the film’s message with the same sort of warmth I described earlier.

So if “Brother Bear” is one of Disney’s more divisive movies, then I proudly fall in the camp of one of it’s defenders. And after all these years, I’m glad that the concept of bears and brotherhood lives on in “We Bare Bears“.

We Bare Bears

As you can see, I had fun with this entry.

Side Notes:

Rutt and Tuke

* Bambi, Bambi’s mom and Lilo all make cameos early on.

* “I don’t blame the bear, Kenai!” Oh damn, son!

* “That bear… over there… he’s crazy…” “I am not CRAZY!” “Wha- whoever said you were?”

* “You swear?” “Yeah“.

* “Are you sure your mom didn’t ditch you, Kod-duh?” Oh wow, Kenai and Koda must just look back on that memory and cringe.

* I never knew I wanted to see bears riding mammoths until this movie.

* “Oh, it counts” “No, it-” ‘It counts!” “Fine”.

* “Enough with the stories, I don’t care about the time you and Binky found like, ‘the world’s biggest pine cone ever!'” “Okay, first, his name’s Bucky, not ‘Binky’. Second, it wasn’t a pine cone, it was a pine nut, and it was huge, even bigger than your fat head!”

* Denahi screeching ‘NO!’ is unintentionally hilarious.

* Kenai’s screams of terror. Bless.

* “This has to be the most beautiful, the most peaceful place I’ve ever been to, it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. When I think of how far I’ve come I can’t believe it, yet I see it. In them I see family, I see the way we used to be!”

* “I told you, woman, I’m right here!”

* “Sorry, you’ve been replaced by my dear brother… oh gee, I forgot your name. What’s your name, little bear?”

* Bear hugs are even sweeter with actual bears.

* Bear-fu and moose yoga.

* “All the things that you can change, there’s a meaning in everything, and you will find all you need, there’s so much understand!”

* Y’know, there might actually be an in-universe explanation for why “Brother Bear” is a goofier film whenever Denahi’s not around. He’s telling this story, including the parts he couldn’t possibly know because he wasn’t there and his brothers never told him anything (one of them was dead and the other one was busy). He would have had to have filled in some blanks, including what he imagined the animal kingdom to be like. For all we know, the old man has been bullshitting us the whole time.

* Nicely played, Pixar.

Further Reading:

Fanart:

Happy Ending

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Character Analysis: Ariel

Part Of Your World

“Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand!” – Ariel.

Disney Princess Ariel gets plenty of criticism when it comes to her being a questionable protagonist: she’s slammed by feminists for giving up everything for a man, she’s slammed by parents for being spoiled, disobedient, and ungrateful, and she’s slammed by critics for not defeating the villain in her own movie and redeeming her mistakes, which yeah, that last one is disappointing. Other than that, I don’t really have a problem with Ariel. In fact, she’s one of my favorite Disney ladies, alongside Mulan, Anna, Lady, Belle, Esmeralda and Nala. She’s brave, exuberant, kindhearted, and has a real zest for life. All her life she’s been told humans are simple, amoral demons, but over the years she’s begun to realize they’re a lot more complicated than that, that they carry all sorts of potential, and sometimes they’re wonderful. Her crush, Eric, confirms all that for her.

Rescuing Eric

Something I really like about Ariel is that her greatest strength is also her fatal flaw. She’s the type of person who’s not afraid to take risks and that’s a trait that’ll get her very far in life, but she’s also very stubborn and reckless, and like all good character flaws that comes back to bite her in the ass later. When it comes to her fascination with humans, her longing to be part of that world, and her dissatisfaction with the sea, I just want to say right now that there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting more out of life than everything you’ve ever known. It’s what we all want really, otherwise we’d spend the rest of our lives living with our parents. The problem comes when she goes about following her dreams the wrong way, believing it’s the only way, and one mermaid’s dreams grows into something so much bigger than her and puts everyone in danger. And all it could have been avoided.

Kiss The Girl

Just when Ariel’s ready to give up on her ambitions, she meets Eric. He’s the spark who relights the flame and makes it burn brighter and hotter than ever before in “Part Of Your World (Reprise)”.

Ariel often clashes with her father, King Triton, because they’re both stubborn souls and prone to doing foolish things; Triton from his closemindedness and Ariel from her impulsiveness. Ariel fears that no matter how old she gets, her father, the king, will never let her live her life the way she chooses, and instead she’ll be stuck where she is, filling the role he wants for her until she’s old and grey. It’s the same moral dilemma Disney would revisit with Remy and Django eighteen years later in “Ratatouille” *. A parent always wants to protect their child, but does that desire cross over into selfishness when the child comes of age and the parent wants to keep them from leaving the nest and taking the risks that always come with branching out; instead wanting them to remain where they are and spend years of their life pleasing the parent’s desires until the child grows to resent them? It’s definitely a grey area. Ariel is far too reckless and Triton does care for her, a lot, but she can also see that his prejudices are clouding his judgment and it’s having an unfair effect on her (which is a recurring thing with him. If you’ve seen “Ariel’s Beginning” and consider it to be canon, then you’ll know that Triton has a habit of pushing his issues onto everyone around him, including his own children, and making them miserable).

Ariel's Voice

When Triton crosses a major line and smashes Ariel’s hopes and dreams in front of her, breaking her heart, she responds by doing something stupid and insane in return: selling her soul and her voice to a witch so she can get some legs, move out of the house and live her life the way she chooses. And it goes exactly the way you’d expect it to (though it really was fun while it lasted). Ariel and her daddy’s feud almost dooms us all. Both of them pay the price for their actions and in the end, neither of them solve the Ursula problem. Eric has to bail them out. And Eric wouldn’t have been there if Ariel hadn’t rescued him earlier, so “The Little Mermaid” balances itself out quite nicely for me in terms of heroism and lessons learned. Eric learns that waiting for the perfect individual is foolish. If you spend all your time thinking about what could be, you could miss all the wonderful things in front of you. Triton learns that if you punish your kids by destroying their dreams, then you are a bastard and you feel ashamed of yourself. And Ariel learns that if your friends tell you not to sell your soul to someone, you fucking listen to them, or you’re an idiot, a suicidal idiot (turning to a witch for your problems never helps, as Merida also learned).

In conclusion, Ariel is one of my favorite Disney characters because she’s one of the most flawed and interesting both to watch (she darts around the sea, she sings like an angel, she combs her hair with a fork!) and to read into. Enjoy that honeymoon, girl.

Happy Ending

* Remy and Ariel are two different characters, but they’re very much cut from the same cloth. In fact, Remy is actually a more arrogant character than Ariel, and makes many of the same mistakes she does, costing his entire colony their home and almost killing them because he couldn’t leave the humans alone, but you don’t see people calling him a stupid, spoiled, and ungrateful rat, do you? Perhaps there is something to the theory that female characters are judged more than harshly than male ones, including by other women.

Further Thoughts On Ariel:

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