A Disney-cation

As in ‘a Disney education’. That’s right, folks, I’m daring to delve into the world that is Disney Animated Movies.

I must admit, I have a confession to make: I didn’t grow up with the typical Disney Princess movies. Oh, sure, I loved Cinderella (so much so that I apparently own its sequel?) and The Little Mermaid (I even have the CD of the soundtrack, which I used to play the heck out of, according to my parents), but the majority of my Disney film experience came from slightly more abstract sources. Well, to be frank, I don’t actually remember watching many Disney movies as a young child, but I can still probably quote a fair few of them and sing more than a couple of songs from a lot of them, despite not having watched them. (Yes, I know, dishonour on my cow etc.)

So, here are a few of my favourite things Disney movies that I either a) grew up with, or b) grew to love. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all. (And re-watching my favourite Disney movies is the perfect way to countdown the days until Moana comes out in Australia.)

 

First off, I need to tip my hat off to some of my favourite classics.

  1. The Lion King

Ok, so this one doesn’t need much explaining, does it? A classic, soaring musical (looking at you ‘Circle of Life’) with some neat little nods to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, told in the plains of Africa. Also, lots of animals. I loved animals as a kid (I still do), so being able to experience the wildlife of Africa (well, sort of) in my own home was the coolest thing to me. Definitively a classic. (It’s one of my goals to see The Lion King’s stage production form. The use of puppetry seems ingenious and it looks spectacular.)

2. Mulan

HONOUR is the main theme of this film, and Mulan’s got it. The first Disney film I can remember seeing that showed a badass girl wielding a sword (also, she’s voiced by Ming Na Wen, the queen of badassery, and her singing voice is voiced by Lea Salonga, which makes me very proud to be Filipino). If you need a reminder to be awesome, Mulan is always a good one to watch. And even though Mulan‘s most famous song tells you to “be a man“, I like to take solace in the fact that although Mulan does eventually beat them at their own game, it is her natural, innate resourcefulness (a skill that cannot be taught), that allows her to ultimately retrieve that arrow and with her shirt on.

3. Winnie the Pooh

This willy-nilly silly old bear doesn’t get enough love as a Disney classic. But he and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood were an absolute staple in my childhood. Which seems ironic, considering I couldn’t tell you what happened in a specific Winnie the Pooh movie (and there were several). I know there was something about the wonderful thing about Tiggers, and that time Winnie the Pooh went looking for Christopher Robin and got stuck in a cave. But a discernible plot? Nope. Couldn’t tell you. Which means only one thing: time for a re-watch! (And now I have the theme song to Winnie the Pooh stuck in my head. And possibly yours too.)

4. Honourable Mention: Tarzan

I suppose I should give Tarzan an honourable mention. Although, I’m sure many people would be quite irked with me for just giving it an ‘honourable mention’ and not a ‘top spot’ in my little list. But that’s ok; after all, we all have different opinions regarding these films. It’s a nice film, no doubt about it. I guess I just didn’t find something I could connect to in it. It is lovely to watch though. Despite my somewhat apathetic opinions about this film, I must say: Terk and Tantor are awesome, Jane is delightfully quirky, and you can’t go wrong with a Phil Collins soundtrack (see Exhibit A. ‘Two Worlds’ by Phil Collins).

5. Honourable Mention: Beauty and the Beast

Oh, I can definitely hear you all judging me right now. I feel like I needed to mention this one, seeing as its live action equivalent is coming out soon. Fact: I didn’t grow up with this one. In fact, I only watched it in its entirety just recently. Anyways, I’m fairly certain I would’ve appreciated it more if I were younger and hadn’t gone through my teenage years, because all I could imagine from the scenes with Belle and the Beast interacting in the castle were two moody teenagers (which I suppose they were).

Belle: OMG I’m trapped here in my room forever!

Beast: Come to dinner. *Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts glare at him* Please.

Belle: I’m not hungry.

Beast: Fine! Stay in your room and starve then!

Belle: Fine!

Beast: *to Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts* She’s impossible.

Ok, you caught me; this isn’t the actual dialogue. But it’s pretty much the essence of the scene. That being said, it is a sweet film with lovely songs. My mum’s favourite song is ‘Beauty and the Beast’, sung by Angela Lansbury, which is indeed delightful. And you can’t go wrong with ‘Be Our Guest’, right?

 

Those were some of the classics that I have definitely seen. To my memory. I’m sure I’ve seen scenes from some of the other classics. I mean, I’m fairly confident that I’ve seen several scenes from Aladdin, Bambi, The Jungle Book and Robin Hood. I think. Or maybe I’ve just listened to enough of the songs from those movies that I’ve fooled myself into thinking I know them. I think that contributes to a lot of my Disney knowledge; the songs.

Now, before we get to my darling favourites, I’d like to give a shout out to some other really cool Disney movies. I call these, the ‘Honourable Mentions/Forgotten Gems’.

  • Atlantis– Don’t you wish the lost city of Atlantis really existed? Well, this movie answers your question and fulfils all your archaeological fantasies (because who doesn’t have archaeological fantasies???? Right? Guys.. ?).
  • Treasure PlanetTreasure Island in space. ‘Nuff said.
  • Dinosaur– Don’t worry; I forgot this was Disney too. But this movie is the reason I love dinosaurs (or it just amplified my love of dinosaurs).
  • Big Hero 6– The Avengers of San Fransokyo. Also, SCIENCE. (The Nerd Lab is totally where I want to be.) And, of course, Baymax.

 

Anyways, moving on to what I believe are the Unsung Heroes of the Disney-verse (*cough*My Favourites*cough*).

1. The Aristocats

Warning: my bias is showing. I blame this film for infecting me with my love of jazz, because really, who does jazz better than the cool cats of Paris? Again, my major love of animals is showing here, but this film also plays to my love of quotable quotes (seriously). One that’s popped up again in more recent times is “Ladies don’t start fights; but they can finish them.” and we have little Miss Marie to thank for that. This film really fostered my love of music and ‘Scales and Arpeggios’ (the adorable song that Duchess, Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse sing) probably influenced my desire to learn the piano. It’s a little rough around the edges (in design, plot, and perhaps even humour), but I’m pretty sure it made me want to be a cat. And haven’t you heard? Everybody wants to be a cat

2. Hercules

Who put the ‘glad’ in ‘gladiator’? Hercules! This is one of the Disney films that I’ve grown to love, and as a lover of Ancient Greek mythology, I couldn’t help myself. That being said, speaking again as a lover of Greek mythology, it’s best if you just leave everything you know about Hercules and the Greek gods at the door. Ok, so it doesn’t follow the original Hercules myth. To be fair, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the first place, so maybe it was for the best. Also, it wasn’t as bad as the Percy Jackson movies in the myth-appropriation department, so I forgive it. The real saviours of this film are the Muses; goddesses of the arts, and proclaimers of heroes! They may be short a few Muses (there are actually meant to be nine of them), but their Gospel-inspired tunes keep the movie moving along nicely. And they do have some heavenly voices. Regardless of all its inaccuracies, Hercules also gifts us with a truly inspirational song; ‘Go the Distance’. Add that to your playlists if you ever need an inspirational boost.

3. Meet the Robinsons

O-ho! Forgot about this gem, did you? Honestly, so did I. But while I was doing my ‘research’ for this little piece, Meet the Robinsons came up as a Disney movie and I pretty much went into shock. I completely forgot that it was a Disney movie! Which sounds incredibly stupid of me in retrospect, what with it including Walt Disney’s iconic line: “Keep moving forward!” (Wise words to live by.) Anyways, it follows Lewis, an inventor and an orphan, who is zapped into the future by a mysterious kid named Wilbur. Based on William Joyce’s book, ‘A Day With Wilbur Robinson’, and filled with good old fashioned time travel and a fantastical future, it’ll have you dreaming about the world of tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but one thing I really remember from it was hearing the song ‘Little Wonders’ by Rob Thomas; it’s worth watching it again to see how wonderfully they weave it into the film (honestly, it made me tear up).

4.  The Princess and the Frog

There’s a common theme with my favourite Disney films- they all have the ability to inspire. At least, they seem inspirational to me. This film is no different. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also set in New Orleans and has a healthy dose of jazz for good measure (hence why there is a song called ‘Down in New Orleans’). The last 2D animated feature of a Disney era paints the tale of Tiana, the waitress. Tiana doesn’t believe in wishing on stars, unlike her best friend, Lottie. Tiana’s dad raised her to work hard, not daydream. But, boy, does Tiana have a dream. She wants to open her own restaurant, and she’s almost there. Except, of course, for the little problem of being an African American woman in the 1920s. I’ll leave it at that, but I think you know what I mean. Also, she ends up getting turned into a frog and dragged into the problems of a prince. That tends to put a damper on one’s dreams. I hear that there is a complaint  about the use of Voodoo in this film, and that is a good point. From what little I know about the topic, Voodoo is something that has a complex history that can make it tricky to fully grasp. The movie deals with this by showing us the ‘bad side’ of Voodoo in Dr Facilier, but also the ‘good side’ of Voodoo, with Mama Odie. I suppose, like with a lot of things, Voodoo can either be used for ‘good’ or for ‘bad’; it’s all in how one wields it. In any case, I also want to give a shout out to Lottie (Tiana’s best friend, and daughter of a wealthy businessman), and Eudora (Tiana’s mother, voiced by Oprah Winfrey herself), for being such amazing, supporting characters. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it *hint hint*.

5. Lilo and Stitch

A.k.a my favourite Disney film ever. I only determined this fact early this year, but the more I think about it, the more it holds true. The premise of the film seems absolutely non-sequitur. I mean, really? What were they thinking…

Screenwriter/Director: Ok, so how about this- A little girl being raised by her big sister in Hawaii adopts a dog.

Producer/Studio Exec: …

S/D: But get this- the ‘dog’ is actually an alien experiment gone rogue!

P/SE: So… she adopted an alien?

S/D: Exactly!

P/SE: … BRILLIANT!!

Ridiculous, right? It probably shouldn’t have even made it past the studio’s pitching room (or whatever the place they suggest film ideas is called). But lucky for us, it did. Now, it’s not a musical, but it does pay homage to the King himself, Elvis Presley (the soundtrack was stuck in my head for weeks afterwards). It’s not a princess film, although Lilo probably would have considered herself one (just ’cause); Nani probably didn’t have the time to be a princess (she had enough on her hands with raising Lilo and working). There’s no explicit love story, save for the love between two sisters (“wait, there was a story of sisterly love before Frozen?!?!?!”), maybe a bit of crushing on David (who is pretty cute), and of course, ohana (“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”). But maybe that’s why I love it so much. Despite its crazy pitch, Lilo and Stitch is quite lovely in its simplicity; the story and the art. In a time when people are getting into heated arguments about representation in movies, I think Lilo and Stitch has got it covered. Realistic body representation? On the whole, (minus the aliens, and maybe Cobra Bubbles), definitely. Representation of females and the Bechdel Test? Easily done with two sisters focused on keeping their family together (sorry, Frozen, but you just can’t compete with the original, and solid representation of siblings, no matter how much you twisted a nice little trope). Cultural representation? I’m definitely not the best to comment on that, but from what I can discern from the interwebs, they did ok. But enough of that; kids don’t really get hung up on those little details (though, of course, they do matter). They like seeing a little girl and her older sister dealing with their rascal of a new dog, who just so happens to be a rogue alien experiment. Lilo and Stitch has a little bit of everything, but it doesn’t advertise it as such. Action, family, adventure, humour, good music, aliens, surfing (‘Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride’ really makes me want to learn how to surf), and the beautiful setting of Hawaii. How can you go wrong?

 

Now, I could’ve added a whole heap more to this little list, but I decided to just keep it to Disney’s Animated Features. And voila! There we have it; my favourite Animated Disney movies. Watch a few, reminisce about them, and spread the joy of these movies! See you next week for the DreamWorks addition! (Just kidding.)

 

 

{Song of the Post: Gosh, where do I begin?? The soundtracks of all of these, for one. I’ve also linked a sprinkling of the songs in each of the films throughout the post. But, to simplify it down, I’m going to put something new in here: ‘We Know the Way’ from the upcoming Disney feature, Moana. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see it.}

 

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