Disney Odyssey #30 – How To Win True Love By Being More Interested in Books Than Dating

Prologue

Many folks in my age group consider the Disney Renaissance to be the finest era of Disney filmmaking in its long history. Many people in that age group would further say that this next movie in the Disney Odyssey is one of the greatest Disney movies ever made. Though the current young generation of would-be Disney princesses would say that their favorite princess is Anna or Elsa, many of my generation would immediately and without hesitation say Ariel (who doesn’t want to breathe underwater and have voluptuous hair, but perhaps even more will name… Belle.

“Belle. It’s Belle. BELLE IS THE BEST DISNEY PRINCESS,” they will say, fervently and unyieldingly, gesturing to their bookshelves, their blue hair bows, their coordinated porcelain tea sets with pale purple trim and decorative candelabras.

Belle is the Elizabeth Bennett of the Disney canon: she is beautiful, deeply intelligent, and doesn’t have time for judgy small-town villagers. She earns her true love/destiny/happiness through Being Herself To The Max, that is, by loving books, caring deeply for her family member(s), and for not backing down in the face of a brutish, emotionally unstable lonely man. In fact, she doesn’t back down SO MUCH that that brutish, emotionally unstable lonely man totally falls in love with her, and then she’s immediately wealthier than her entire obnoxious town combined.

It’s the ultimate dream. Get rich and find the man of your dreams simply by being yourself and reading a lot.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that I don’t like Belle, or that I’m judging you for liking Belle the best. I’m absolutely not. I freaking love Belle. She’s great. She is the foundation for many strong-willed, deeply loving, action-ready heroines yet to come, and she is wonderful.

To celebrate Belle’s radness, the Fella and I invited some truly amazing people for this edition of the Disney Odyssey, one of whom was only seeing this movie for the second time… ever.

This time we welcomed my personal steampunk fairy godparents Tee and Pip, and their wonderful daughter (codename: Sonic Boom).

Award-winning authors Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine IN THE HOUUUUUUUSE!

15036208_10154452213256348_3116209209091236406_n

Tee, Sonic Boom, the Fella, moi. A true sitcom in the making (Pip is behind the camera).

Tee and Pip are co-authors of the award-winning series the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences – I’m sure if you’ve read anything else on this blog you’ve heard me mention them before – among other fantasy and science fiction stories of their own. They are fantastic human beings who also run a podcast called The Shared Desk about writing, publishing, pop culture, and social media. CHECK. THEM. OUT.

And now, on to the movie.

The Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

untitled

Continue reading

Disney Odyssey #28 – Every Single Bubble In This Movie Was Drawn By Hand

This is it, folks. The moment we’ve all been waiting for… well, most of us, anyway. The first Disney princess movie in thirty years (since Sleeping Beauty). The first movie of the Disney Renaissance, heralding the utopian years of the 1990s when every film was a musical, every film was made of gold, and the very fabric of our childhoods was wrought with exquisite hand-drawn art painstakingly and carefully integrated brand new CGI techniques. The movie that made a generation of little girls long for perfect flowing hair, tiny waists, beautiful voices and powerful fish tails.

It’s time for The Little Mermaid.

mv5bntaxmzy0mji1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtu2ntyxmte-_v1_uy1200_cr8906301200_al_

The Film: The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Facts:

  • Once upon a time… the story for this movie was drawn from the utterly disappointing and depressing fairy tale of the same name written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. In that version, the prince falls in love with another girl, and the mermaid vows to kill them both – but she cannot, and, brokenhearted, she dissolves into seafoam. Then she is transformed into a spirit of the air, bound to do good deeds for three hundred years in order to ascend into heaven. So there’s that.
  • It made $211.3 million at the box office.
  • Ariel is the first redheaded princess, and she is also the first princess to bare her midriff. She was made to be a redhead in order to differentiate her from Daryl Hannah’s character in the movie “Splash” which came out a few years before this. Ariel is the first princess to have siblings, as well, and all of her sisters’ names also begin with the letter A. Ariel’s physicality was based on actress Alyssa Milano, and she was voiced by the incomparable Jodi Benson. Jodi was so into the role that she recorded “Part of Your World” in the dark – to get that underwater, isolated feeling. Ariel was fully animated by Disney legend Glen Keane, who demanded the right to animate her himself after seeing Jodi Benson recording the song.
  • The role of Ursula almost went to Bea Arthur, Roseanne Barr, Jennifer Saunders, and Elaine Stritch, among others who auditioned for the role. Stritch was cast but left the project after she and Howard Ashman did not mesh well. Ultimately the role was filled by Pat Carroll, who based most of her performance off of Ashman’s renditions (and ad-libs!) of the song in rehearsal.
  • Did you know that all of the bubbles in this film are hand-drawn? None of the bubbles were Xeroxed. They even had to outsource some of the bubble-drawing to China, but this was interrupted by the student riots in Beijing. Watch this movie again and try not to think about the poor animators painstakingly drawing each and every single bubble… it’s madness!
  • Prior to this movie, songs for the animated features were written beforehand and then integrated into the story later. This marked the first time they changed that process: the songs were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman alongside the storyboard creation for the film, to make the songs more organically integrated.
  • There are plenty of nods to other Disney films and characters in this movie, although they may be more subtle than in some of the other movies.
    • In the concert crowd, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald can be spotted if you look fast.
    • At Prince Eric’s palace, a portrait on the wall in the dining room looks a bit like Aurora and Philip…
    • Ariel’s pink dress is a combination of Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora’s gowns in their respective movies.
    • the housekeeper in the palace is wearing the same clothes as Cinderella wears when doing chores, just in different colors
  • Scuttle’s ‘romantic’ vocals before “Kiss The Girl” are actually the melody from Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo & Juliet.”

Keep reading for the movie commentary…

Continue reading

Disney Odyssey #16 – What Part of “Don’t Touch That Sharp Thing” Did You Not Understand?

Do you love naps? Do you have bumbling color-coordinated best friends/spinster aunts? What about helpful animal neighbors? Do you find that if someone tells you not to touch something you absolutely frickin’ have to touch it?!

Is your name Aurora and/or some combination of “Briar” and “Rose”? Because this movie might be about you.

The other night, the Fella and I got together with our very dear friends Claire and Kurt to talk about the utterly radiant Aurora (Official Disney Princess Number 3, for those of you playing along at home) and her majestic, ballet-inspired motion picture.

 

The Fella, Claire (holding the dvd), Kurt, and me

sleepingbeauty

The Film:  Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Continue reading

Disney Odyssey #12 – If the Shoe Fits, Marry Her Immediately

Glory be! We finally made it to Cinderella! It’s been an appropriately long time since I watched this one, and I’m glad we got through the odd and inconsistent 1940s package films to reach the golden, dreamy 1950s. Cinderella is in many ways the ‘number one’ Disney Princess, although Snow White is the first. If you check Google Images, Cindy is usually pictured at the center of the Disney Princess flying-v line-up. Observe:

WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS!

WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS!

While perhaps our modern sensibilities and craving for fierce, fearless ladies in leading roles may tell us that the earlier Disney Princesses are weak or wimpy, I’d like to encourage you all to remember that Snow White was fourteen years old and Cinderella was one of the most humble, dignified, good-hearted people on the planet. Let’s begin, shall we?

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.34.54 AM

The Film: Cinderella (1950)

The Facts:

  • At the time Cinderella was made, Disney was $4 million in debt. The film cost $3 million to make. The profits from the film, however, were enough to bankroll several later films, save the entire company from bankruptcy, and fund the initial work on building Disneyland. Also during the 2005 re-release, it made $64 million, selling 3.2 million copies in the first week.
  • The story came from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, which – for those of you playing along at home – is an Aarne-Thompson type 510A – “the persecuted heroine.” There are hundreds of variants of this type of story the world over, the oldest of which (dating back to 7 BC) is the story of Rhodopis, a Greek slave who marries the King of Egypt.
  • This is rated one of the best animated films of all time by the American Film Institute.
  • Live action reference was used to keep animation costs down – in fact, approximately 90% of it was filmed live.
  • Cinderella marks the first time that Disney sought its musical composition from Tin Pan Alley – and you can tell. The music in this film is iconic, catchy, and unified in a way that previous Disney films are not. It was also the first film where Disney copyrighted and released the soundtrack under the newly minted Walt Disney Music Company.
  • This film also features one of the pioneer examples of double track vocals long before it was used in pop music.
  • Walt said later that the torn-up dress Cinderella wears was inspired by Salvador Dali, and the impeccable ballgown she wears is heavily influenced by Christian Dior, who was just becoming a worldwide presence in the fashion industry.
  • Walt had two films in progress at once: Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Rather than schedule them himself, he challenged the production teams to race each other to finish and determine which film would release first.

Continue reading

Disney Odyssey #1 – “Someday my prince will come…”

I love Disney. I have always loved Disney, and I have never grown out of it. I love the films, I love the history, I love visiting the theme parks. It’s an industry reflective of our culture as Americans, and a massive empire of consumerism, certainly, but I love it all the same. The other day while discussing our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, the fella pointed out how many Disney animated feature films I actually haven’t seen. There’s a whole slew of them, to be honest, that I just haven’t gotten around to. “Why don’t we watch them all?” he suggested. “Start to finish. In chronological order.” So that’s what we’re going to do. Not only is it a great Mandatory Date Night idea, but I’m also going to use it as blog fodder.

And so, I give you DISNEY ODYSSEY (2015): A Pilgrimage from the Past to the Present Through the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney Animation Studios!

IT BEGINS!

IT BEGINS!

Last night, we began this sojourn with the animated feature film that started it all….

The Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The Facts: 

  • Walt Disney did not direct this film – he produced it. He actually utilized a team of six directors to bring the film together, and eight writers to create and storyboard it (including one woman: Dorothy Ann Blank!).
  • Disney’s wife Lillian and his brother/business partner Roy O. Disney both thought it was going to bomb at the box office. It didn’t. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, Snow White remains one of the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time.
  • Based on the German fairy tale “Schneewittchen” found in the Brothers Grimm’s compendium “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”
  • After its initial theatrical release, many velvet seats in Radio City Music Hall in NYC needed to be replaced; the movie was so frightening that children wet their pants and ruined the upholstery.
  • The design and names of the seven dwarfs went through tons of rewrites and revisions until Disney was satisfied with the right mix of “screwiness” and comic potential.
  • The voice actress for Snow White, a girl named Adriana Caselotti, was under strict contract never to act or perform on stage or screen again – Disney wanted Snow White’s voice to be ‘unique.’ However you can hear Adriana in one other famous film… The Wizard of Oz. In “If I Only Had A Heart,” she quotes Romeo & Juliet from offscreen! She also appears in It’s A Wonderful Life in the background at Martini’s bar.

Continue reading