Release Date: June 19, 1998
Director: Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Mulan is Disney’s interpretation of the classic Chinese ballad “Hua Mulan,” where a girl takes her aging father’s place when he’s conscripted to war against the Huns. Mulan is a misfit in her society’s traditional expectations of a woman, but with the help of the dragon Mushu – voiced by Eddie Murphy – she’s able to find her place in the military.The great part is that Mulan is able to use her smarts to figure out clever ways to defeat the Huns in battle and eventually save the Emperor.
The animation style that draws on Chinese watercolor rather than real world appearance is a nice touch. It does feel that Disney didn’t bring in their Grade A composers for this movie, though, as the musical numbers are a resounding dud. While it’s a simple tale simply told, especially compared to the other Disney movies of the Renaissance era, but it is a decent movie about family, honor, friendship, and the capabilities of women in a patriarchal society.
Release Date: 29 June 2007
Director: Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Production Company: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Remy, a rat with a heightened sense of small learns to appreciate fine foods and cooking from television programs and cookbooks of the famed chef Auguste Gusteau. When circumstance bring Remy to Paris, a vision of the late Gusteau guides him to Gusteau’s restaurant where Remy begins to pursue the dream of becoming a cook. Remy is paired with the restaurant’s young garbage boy Linguini, and learns that he can control his body like a marionette by pulling his hair (that sounds creepier than it appears in the movie) and together they make successful new dishes.
Though the stakes are low it touches on issues such as balancing commitments to family with pursuing one’s dreams, and expanding one’s perspectives. It’s also surprisingly educational about both the bridage de cuising and colonies of rats. One disappointment of the film is that almost all of the characters – rats and kitchen staff alike – are male, although the sole female character Colette comments on the difficulty of women making it in the culinary field, a seeming meta-commentary on the movie itself. Overall, it’s a cute movie and beautifully animated and I enjoyed it.
Radiolab :: Match Made in Marrow
A story about how faith and science are in conflict, but how people who disagree can come together in dialogue (and still disagree).
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Disney Parks
An overlooked aspect of the Disney theme park experience: sound design.
30 for 30 Podcasts :: Hoodies Up
Trayvon Martin was murdered during a broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game. Five weeks later, his hometown team the Miami Heat posed for a photo with their hoodies up. This is the story of that photo and the rebirth of athlete activism.
WBUR News :: An ‘Underground World’: This Urban Tent Community Is Dangerous For Heroin Users
A scene from the opiod crisis with a visit to a hidden tent community in the Boston region.
Fresh Air :: Priest Responds To Gang Members’ ‘Lethal Absence Of Hope’ With Jobs, And Love
An interview with Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries and how to care for children in gangs. You can also read my review of his book Tattoos on the Heart.
Title: Lilo & Stitch
Release Date: 2002 June 21
Director: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Summary/Review: A big leap forward in time from Dumbo, but coincidentally this movie was actually inspired by Dumbo in that the filmmakers wanted to make a low-budget experiment and is also the first Disney animated film to use watercolor backgrounds since Dumbo. The story involves Stitch, a genetic experiment designed to cause mayhem who escapes and crash lands in Hawaii. There he meets Lilo, a young girl being raised by her older sister after the death of their parents, who is an outcast among the other kids and tends to lash out violently, not unlike Stitch. The movie takes some chances in setting it in Hawaii and incorporating Hawaiian culture as well as a starkly honest depiction of a sisterly relationship. The movie is laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking, and I can’t believe I waited 15 years to see this genius film.
Release Date: 1941 October 23
Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
A baby is born with a physical feature that leads him to be ostracized by his kind, but after discovering that that physical feature affords him special powers, he is celebrated. Dumbo is essentially the same story as Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer. The animation style is different from Pinnochio. The former tried to recreate reality in intricate animation, while Dumbo is more cartoon-y. But the elephants are lovingly-executed and given characteristics to make them both elephantine and anthropomorphic. And Dumbo is just so darn cute. Timothy Q. Mouse is the hero of this story and is much like Jiminy Cricket, taking Dumbo under his wing and helping him find his greatness. Like Pinnochio, there’s a lot about this movie that is just plain weird – like how Dumbo and Timothy discover that Dumbo can fly after consuming champagne. The scene with the crows is uncomfortable because of the racial insensitivity of the obviously African American characters, but the crows also have the most memorable lyrics of any song. After nearly an hour of bullying and ostracizing our protagonist he gets the happy ending he deserves, but this sure is a sad movie.
Soon I will be traveling with my family to Walt Disney World in Florida. I’ve previously visited Walt Disney World on three occasions (1976, 1981, and 1982) as well as once visit to Disneyland in California in 1980. So it’s been 35 years since my last visit to a Disney park, and my have things changed.
When I last visited, there was just the Magic Kingdom and some hotel resorts. EPCOT was under construction and Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom were not even on the drawing board. This guide and the film below show what it was like on my last visit (kind of disappointed we didn’t take advantage of the free loans of Polaroid cameras!).
Growing up in the 70s and 80s meant a different relationship with Disney than the generations before and after. The classic animated movies were re-released to movie theaters from time to time, but weren’t shown on television (even on cable) or available on video until the late 80s, when I was a teenager and not as interested. I do remember seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a stage adaptation at Radio City Music Hall, but other than that it was The Wonderful World of Disney and later The Disney Channel that provided glimpses of classic Disney films. Meanwhile the Disney studios were going through a troubled period and while I loved The Fox and the Hound, most of the movies released in the 1970s and 1980s were not very memorable. Kids who grew up during the Disney Renaissance starting in 1989 don’t know how lucky they had it.
So in a strange way, the parks were the main thing for Disney when I was growing up. There were all these rides and characters based on movies we never saw and vaguely knew the plots. People dressed as characters have always been part of Disney World, but planning for this trip I’m surprised to learn that they no longer walk around the park greeting visitors but instead it is required to queue up for “character experiences” and even pay good money to have diner with characters. It seems strange to me but apparently it is an extremely popular thing to do. Luckily, my kids are interested in going on rides, which I think is much more fun.
With that in mind, here are ten things I loved at Disney as a kid. It will be fun to see what lives up to memory, and what new things will join the list.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – the roller coaster so good that even my roller coaster hating mother liked it. I remember riding it three times in a row one afternoon. And we didn’t even need a FastPass.
- Contemporary Resort – also known as the hotel that a monorail goes through, which is freakin’ awesome! We didn’t stay here, or any Disney hotel, but we did have dinner her one night, and apart from the freakin’ awesome monorail going through the lobby I also enjoyed playing in the video arcade.
- The Enchanted Tiki Room – audioanimatronic birds singing and telling bad jokes, what could be better? And as my Dad noted, the birds won’t crap on you.
- The Haunted Mansion – a ride that is fun because it’s funny, from the stretchy portraits to the hitch-hiking ghosts.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – another funny ride I absolutely loved, from the oncoming train to the trip to hell. I suppose that might’ve scared some kids.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – the ride so good that they made it into a movie.
- The Skyway – Who doesn’t like a bird’s-eye view of the magic? (Apparently the people who decided to tear this ride down)
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – It may have been a kid’s perspective, but it really felt like one was going on a submarine voyage. Can anyone explain why Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Skyway, and this are all gone but the boring-ass Carousel of Progress still survives?
- Space Mountain – the coolest ride at the center of the coolest land, Tomorrowland (my impression is that Tomorrowland is not so cool these days because the future came and it’s nothing like what we were promised)
- WEDWay PeopleMover – I was an impressionable child and believed them when they said that peoplemovers would be the transportation system of the future in big cities. I’m still waiting.
To prepare for our visit, I’m going to try to watch some animated Disney movies I’ve never seen before, so you’ll be seeing my reviews here.
Author: Robert Simpson
Title: Frozen: The Cinestory
Publication Info: Joe Books Inc. (2014)
I read this adaptation of the Disney musical Frozen with my daughter over the course of several bedtimes. It’s essentially scenes from the film arranged in a comic book format. Strangely enough, none of the lyrics to the songs that made this musical famous are included in the book. Instead the same basic ideas are related in the dialogue. I don’t know if this is a licensing issue or if they just thought it would work better in comic form without the songs. Nevertheless, if you and your children enjoy Frozen, this is an enjoyable read.