Saturday, December 31, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 7th Day

 Six Lost Boys playing,
Five fairies' wings...
Four crooning birds,
Three handsome thieves,
Two hunny pots,
and Rafiki in his big tree!

7 was a little too easy... :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 5th Day

Meant to be sung like the original: "Fiiiive, fairies' wiiiiings..." As far as I know, there are exactly five fairies with wings in the Disney animated canon. It rhymes with the original lyrics too, if you didn't notice. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 4th Day

Jungle Book is next on my watch list! The vultures are one of my favorite parts of the movie. Did you know they originally planned to have the vultures voiced by the Beatles? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 3rd Day

Yup, that's right. I just called Robin Hood handsome. He is a fox, after all. Aladdin and Flynn Rider, well they speak for themselves.

Monday, December 26, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 2nd Day

Did you know? Winnie the Pooh & friends are only one of two casts to be featured in more than one animated Disney film released in theaters (that is, not counting the crappy straight-to-video sequels). The other is the Rescuers, Bernard and Miss Bianca.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

12 Days of Disnerd Christmas - 1st Day

Merry Christmas! I'm taking a break from reviews this week, but I will be posting these special Disnographics for the next twelve days. Stay tuned for more Disnerdy Christmas fun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Disnerd Christmas

It's another Disnerd holiday! Christmas is a great opportunity to decorate, eat, exchange gifts, eat, watch Christmas movies, and eat (I am so overloaded with sugar from these past couple weeks it's ridiculous). So of course I hosted a Disnerd Christmas party!

First, I decorated my apartment with paper ornaments.These were super easy and cheap to make. I bought a few sheets of Disney paper, a few sheets of Christmas paper, and I was all set. Good thing I'm a scrapbooker and have access to things like paper trimmers and eyelets.
want to make these? check out this website
these are easy and don't require eyelets like the other ones. check out this website.
the finished look.
these ornaments have been up for a while now. I'm very proud of my resourcefulness. I just happened to have the right size ornaments to create these Mickeys!
Then there were of course, the snacks. Thanks to the 'regulars' who brought food! I made Sword in the Stone cupcakes, which basically consisted of frosted cupcakes with sword toothpicks stuck in them. I'd seen other examples of much more elaborate ones, but I didn't have the energy to do it.
Notice that the swords are Christmas colored. I had to pick them out of the box which also had orange, blue and purple toothpicks.
Tiana made Christmas "Sticky Mickeys" - so cute!
After the viewing of Sword in the Stone, we had a "Pink Elephant" gift exchange (Pink Elephant as a tribute to Dumbo, of course!). Here's my gift still in its wrapping. I found this cute Disney Christmas wrapping paper at the dollar store! I also have Winnie the Pooh but I have a thing about finishing a roll of wrapping paper before starting a new one. 
The gifts were mostly Disney themed. Christopher was thrilled when he opened his gift, a Disney Princess flavored lip gloss set. Other gifts included a Disney Guess Who? board game, a Mickey/Minnie rubber stamp and ink pad, Mrs. Potts and Lumiere figurines, and a Tangled coloring book (from me).

The most coveted gift (stolen twice) was a handmade Mickey ring and Minnie earrings, made by Tiana. How awesome are they? By the way, I was the one who got them in the end. hehe. Sorry, Becky. 

After everyone left I made the cookies that I had planned for all of us to decorate together but had given up on because the dough was so sticky. When I was still in the kitchen at 12:30am, I realized that, yup, this Disney blog has officially taken over my life! But um, at least the cookies turned out well!
Yes, I did cut out stencils that spelled "Disnerd" in the Disney font to use on these sugar cookies. As if I needed more proof that I am truly a Disnerd.
Disnerd Christmas goodie bags, which I had to give out the day after the party. Good thing most of my friends work at the same office as me!
I was so touched to receive gifts from Kylene and Vicki, a Disney Christmas singalong CD, and from Christopher and Tiana, a handmade Tangled lantern! Thanks guys!
It doesn't float, unfortunately. But it does light up!
The night also included bonus viewings of Mickey's Christmas Carol, featuring Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge and cameos from several other characters like Mr. Toad, Mole and Rat, Willie the Giant and some Robin Hood peasants. We also watched Small One, another short that tells part of the real Christmas story.

I was exhausted at the end of the night but it was fun. Again, I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative. And I was excited that others joined in the fun by finding or making Disney-themed gifts.There's much fun to be had when you've got a theme and a small budget. :)

Have a Disnerd Christmas, everyone! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#17: Give a Helping Paw

Disney has officially overloaded my cuteness threshold.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 1961
watched December 11, 2011

My recent viewing of this movie had me reflecting on the many dogs that come alongside Pongo and Perdita to rescue their stolen puppies. I never realized how instrumental these unassuming side characters are to the story. When the dalmatian parents find themselves in need, they utilize the "canine telegraph system" to request help and information.

As a result, their puppies are successfully located, and as they endeavor to bring them (and the other 84 puppies, a total of 99) back home, the dogs within the "telegraph system" provide directions, shelter, food, and protection from the threatening Cruella and her henchmen Horace and Jasper. Though they will never grace the cover of the DVD or be listed first in the movie credits, these dogs (as well as cats, horses, ducks, and cows) are the true heroes of the film.

Especially courageous is the mangy farm cat, Sergeant Tibs, who enters the house where the 99 puppies are being held captive, and leads them out, one by one. Although he has never even met Pongo and Perdita, he risks his life trying to save their puppies.

Generosity, hospitality, love and loyalty are displayed by characters who have nothing to do, really, with the main story. Strangers, who, simply because of a common bond, give aid at a moment's notice, despite the dangers or inconvenience.

A couple of my friends suggested that I talk about the movie's parallels with Christian community. It's true; there are similarities here. When we are graciously adopted into the family of God, that means we have a built-in network of brothers and sisters with whom we are called to share life. In the early church we see the complete and total generosity that the believers had towards one another. It was a time when no one was in need.

But I fear that much has changed since then. What would it look like if today's Church embodied the nature of this dog community from 101 Dalmatians? If we were the network that listened for and acted on opportunities to help others, no matter their "breed," location, or relationship to us? Furthermore, how could we go beyond our own, to rescue those other 84 dalmatian puppies, unrelated to us, but vulnerable and oppressed?

I am thankful for people who do give of themselves in this way and love those in need. I think of the good people at International Justice Mission who are fighting to stop human trafficking, or my friends in Maryland, whose church small group members speak into each other's life struggles with truths from Scripture. There are countless other examples.

And yet, as I reflect on my own life and community, I can't say this has always been my experience. Often we are too busy to look beyond ourselves. We've got so much going on that we can't hear or see those around us who need help. I say "we," knowing I myself am a selfish person most of the time, but also that I'm not alone in my guilt.

The dogs were compelled to help the 101 dalmatians simply because they belonged to the dog "family." What compels us to love should be a deep, real understanding that we belong to Christ. And like those dogs in the telegraph system, we should be listening and ready to demonstrate that love.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art and Music in Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is the only animated Disney film to feature square trees.
I am running a little behind schedule on my blog posts but I didn't want to skip over an opportunity to talk about the art of Sleeping Beauty.

While the film's story is admittedly a little sparse, the visual design and the musical score more than make up for it. Walt Disney also knew Sleeping Beauty had several similarities to the previous two princess tales, Snow White and Cinderella, and so he set this film apart by giving it its own unique visual style. To this day there has been nothing like it, and it is often cited as the quintessential fairy tale look in animation. Additionally, the new 70mm format in the film industry afforded an opportunity for each frame to be twice as wide as in previous films. This meant larger, and more detailed backgrounds. It's no wonder it took seven years to produce this film!

if this forest existed i would so want to live there!
this is my absolute favorite scene. the use of light and shadow is unparalleled!

who wouldn't fall in love in a place like this?

Eyvind Earle was the artist who took the lead on the visual design, and his inspiration came directly from European medieval art. At the same time, there's a distinct graphic style in the backgrounds he created which reveal it's a Disney, 1950s interpretation of that period of art. To me, this blending of old and new is what makes it so great. I love that idea of being inspired by history and reinterpreting it to be relevant now.

The visual style is not the only aspect of Sleeping Beauty that draws inspiration from previous pieces of art. Tchaikovsky's ballet, composed in 1889, provides much of the musical score in this film. The waltzy, romantic melodies and moving orchestral undercurrent lend a sophistication to complement the visual style, and they give this film a very different feel than its predecessors and successors, some of which have a much more "Broadway" sound.

Sleeping Beauty is one of the best examples of animation as a genuine, legitimate art form. I wish I could say more, but I'm not eloquent enough to express in words the level of excellence displayed through sight and sound. You will just have to watch the movie, to see and hear for yourself! 

note: Thanks to for these images from the film.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Secret Santa

I tried to get someone to bet me 10 bucks that I would receive a Disney-related gift for our team Secret Santa gift exchange, but no one wanted in. It's just as well because I was right! I'm very excited because I received a biography of Walt Disney, written by Bob Thomas. Steve, my Secret Santa, said, "I heard wikipedia was your main source for your blog."  Touché, touché.

In any event I'm very excited to read more about Walt Disney's life. I've already been learning a lot just through the DVD features, and he seems like a fascinating, inspiring man and artist. Since we are closing in on the last of the films he was alive to see produced, it seems apt to start this book. 

Thanks Steve!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#16: Epic Proportions

Sleeping Beauty, 1959
watched December 4, 2011
(c) Disney
In light of the simplicity of the original material, Disney has taken the liberty of altering many of these fairy tales, in order to flesh them out for full-length features. However, instead of developing the main characters more fully, it is often the supporting characters who come to the foreground. In Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs play a much bigger role than in the original Grimm version. And in Cinderella, much of the screen time is devoted to the mice. Here in Sleeping Beauty, we see very little of Aurora in comparison to her fairy friends, Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, the menacing and malicious Maleficent, and even Prince Philip, the first Disney prince with a name.

While this may frustrate viewers (including myself), I actually think this indicates a recognition that we are not the only ones active in our own story. Each of us is part of a larger narrative, which includes not just one heroine or hero, but an entire world of beings, both human and supernatural.

And everyone is operating with a wider lens. Maleficent, the powerful villain, seems to focus on the downfall of Princess Aurora, but there's no question that she intends for her evil to affect all people. Her battle is not just with Aurora; she seeks the destruction of all good things in the world. Flora, Fauna and Merriweather  protect not only Aurora, but also her parents, King Stefan and the Queen, as well as the future of the kingdom.

In order to appreciate what Sleeping Beauty communicates, we must step back from the princess in pink (or blue), and broaden our view. While the film may be about a sleeping beauty, it's mostly about those who hate her, protect her, love her, and rescue her. The struggle between good and evil takes center stage, and it's a much bigger stage than we might expect.

Sometimes stepping back is necessary in life as well. While our personal crises tend to claim our full attention, a much more epic battle surges forward. Evil threatens to invade, but there are good powers at work, too. Maybe we relate to Princess Aurora, asleep and unaware of the conflict. But like Prince Philip, we are in fact called to engage in the fight. Equipped with the Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue (or Faith, if you want to get biblical), and with supernatural help, we can participate in restoring the kingdom to peace and wholeness.

The difference between Sleeping Beauty and reality, however, is that the ultimate battle has already been won. The dragon has been slayed, the princess awoken. And those of us who claim this victory march on in confidence.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Person Disney Medleys

Thanks to Kylene for sharing these awesome one-person medleys. I love the girl version because 1) it's a cappella and 2) she has full make up and costume for each character/song, which is CRAZY! But Nick Pitera's is hilarious. I love the part when he's singing Ariel and the fake waves come splashing up behind him. HAHA.

Send me other cool Disney-related stuff and I may post them here! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Letting the cat(s) out of the bag

(c) Disney, thanks
I'm full of puns when it comes to the topic of race, apparently.

So... anyway.

Since Aunt Sarah's Siamese cats, Si and Am, are the first (and only, for several decades) Asian characters in the Disney animated canon, I thought it important to write a post about how they are portrayed.

It seems like Disney held nothing back in bringing every negative Asian racial stereotype to life in this pair. Their extremely slanted eyes and buck teeth seem to underline their overall suspicious demeanor. They speak a very heavy "pidgin" dialect which accentuates their foreignness. That there are two of them could even imply that all Siamese [cats] are the same.

Si and Am's song "We are Siamese" is unfortunately quite catchy, probably the most memorable in the film. I know that as a kid that's the one that stuck with me. But its tune and harmonies mimic a certain oriental musical style, and here it is used to give a chilling, uncomfortable feeling.

Most of all, Si and Am are undoubtedly villains. Even while Aunt Sarah seems to have a change of heart at the end of the film, there is nothing redeeming about Si and Am. We have seen racial stereotypes in previous movies (such as Dumbo and Peter Pan, which I never got to talk about), but this is the first time the stereotyped characters have been pegged as outright villains.

So what do we do when a good film like Lady & the Tramp features such offensive racial stereotypes as Si and Am's characters?

I should mention that most of the other animals in Lady & the Tramp also have distinct ethnic accents, which are associated with their personalities. Jock is a feisty Scottish terrier. Trusty is a slow-speaking, old-fashioned Southern hound. There's also an English bulldog, a Mexican chihuahua and a Russian borzoi (I had to look that one up, definitely never heard of that one before.) The filmmakers made a deliberate choice to give each animal character certain traits that would make them stand out and give them more of a personality to act and animate to. This seems to make sense when you're dealing with a lot of animal characters that could be hard to differentiate from one another.

But I think the offense here lies in how Disney allows viewers to make assumptions about the people groups that are associated with their characters. Having interacted with not a few ignorant people, the broken "Engrish" that the Siamese cats use brings back bad memories of people making fun of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans alike. It perpetuates the idea that because someone sounds Asian or even just looks Asian, they are somehow less civilized, educated, and decidedly "other." Similarly, the mischievous nature of Si and Am harken back the idea of "yellow peril" which was definitely fresh in the minds of Americans at that time, less than a decade after World War II ended. I find it unfortunate that Disney did not use their influence to reverse the impact that World War II had on attitudes towards Asians, but rather enforce negative stereotypes.

Although this movie was made nearly 60 years ago, the stereotypes of Asians portrayed in Lady and the Tramp still linger. This has led to events as terrible and violent as the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982, and as embarrassing and ignorant as the YouTube "Asian rant" by a UCLA student just this year. And because of that, we must recognize the ways timeless films like this shape our ideas about race and ethnicity.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#15: Isn't it unromantic?

Lady & the Tramp, 1955
watched November 27, 2011
(c) Disney, thanks
While most Disney films get their material from children's books or classic fairy tales, Lady & the Tramp is the first original story made for an animated feature. The film cleverly portrays a dog's point of view, from the camera's lowered perspective, to the way that Lady's owners are referred to simply as 'Jim Dear' and 'Darling'. This also translates over to the biggest threats in the story: the dog-hating Aunt Sarah, her mischievous and creepy Siamese cats, and the fear of being taken to the pound. I particularly enjoy this movie is because I cannot resist cute animals, which I think I have mentioned before.

But what everyone remembers about Lady & the Tramp is the beautiful love story between Lady, the sheltered cocker spaniel who lives with a well-to-do couple, and the Tramp, a 'footloose and collar-free' mutt. (By the way, Tramp is not technically his real name, which is totally what I thought watching this movie as a child. He actually never calls himself by a specific name, which fits in well with his character.) Not insignificantly, we see here the first well-developed "romance" in the Disney animated canon. Curious that it should be about two dogs rather than a human princess and prince.

Lady and the Tramp are the quintessential star-crossed lovers. They embody the adage 'opposites attract' to a tee. Lady, naive and fragile, hasn't experienced much outside the comfort of her family's home. In contrast, the Tramp has seen it all. He lives anywhere he pleases, goes anywhere he pleases. Their obvious differences amuse and intrigue each other.

The relationship begins with excitement and wonder. The Tramp woos Lady with promises of fun and fulfillment in his adventurous lifestyle. When she doubts her place in the family at the arrival of a baby, Tramp uses that vulnerability to show her that there's more to life. And it certainly does seem appealing. After all, who wouldn't be smitten after a moonlit Italian dinner, a long walk through the park, and an... ahem... enchanting night spent together? But then Lady is caught and taken to the pound, and she learns that the freedom the Tramp promises is not guaranteed. When the other stray dogs inform her that the Tramp has had his share of flings, Lady believes she's been played.

But as their romance fades, the audience sees love demonstrated in a very different way. In the climax of the film, the Tramp pursues the evil rat to protect the baby, even when he knows that Lady is still angry with him, and that entering the house endangers him to being caught (and he is). This is the moment when love goes beyond empty promises and false ideas of perfection. This love becomes courage and selflessness.

Amidst many fairy tales (including some we've already seen) that portray romantic relationships as the passion between starry-eyed dreamers, the love displayed in Lady and the Tramp isn't just the infatuation of one "Bella Notte." It's an enduring, unselfish love. And that's the best kind of Love Story there is.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Thankful Disnerd

Since it's Thanksgiving (well, it was last week anyway), I thought I'd write a little bit about what I'm giving thanks for in this "Disnerd" season of my life.

1. Friends - When I began this Disnerd Adventure fourteen weeks ago, I had no idea if anyone would really care what I was doing. And while I'm sure some people think I'm crazy (yes, I know what those looks from my male coworkers mean), I've been joyfully surprised that quite a few friends have come nearly every week to watch these movies with me. I also know a few non-Madison friends who have been following my blog regularly. As silly as this may seem, it's been quite affirming to know that there are people reading this blog and joining in this journey with me. For all these friends, I give thanks.

2. The opportunity to write - The main reason I started this blog is because I enjoy writing and I wanted a fun but constructive way to keep it up. I'm truly loving the time I have each week to sit and reflect on these stories. I'm thankful for the quiet times I have at home, many which are spent researching and writing for this blog.

3. Libraries - Believe it or not, I actually checked the library system to make sure all of the movies were available before I even started this blog. (I actually only own about six or seven of the animated Disney movies.) I am very thankful for the library system in south central Wisconsin, which allows me to view these films without spending a dime. Also a shout-out to the friends who have lent me their nice, non-scratched-up DVD editions for a few of these movies.

4. Walt Disney - In my research I'm learning a lot about the man behind these movies, Walt Disney himself. He was a brilliant storyteller and artist, and I would be remiss not to give him credit for impacting not only my life but our culture for the past 80 years. I don't believe Disney was infallible, but it's hard to deny that he created some of the most memorable stories and characters ever to grace the screen. I'm thankful for the legacy he leaves in his films and the ways they bring joy to my life.

5. The Ultimate Story - Perhaps some may think I'm silly for loving Disney's "fairytale endings," but I think it only reflects my love for the greatest story, the one about a perfect Creator who became a man. This is the story that brings us life, joy and hope to the fullest. I am thankful for the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who conquered the greatest villain - death itself, so that those who trust in him can live "happily ever after,"* not just in some far distant future, but right here, right now. As I've journeyed through watching and writing about these films through the lens of this Good News, the beauty and truth of this Story has me giving thanks every day.

*Perhaps that term may strike a nerve with you. Well, let's dialogue about what "happily ever after" really means! Count on a future blog post about this!

And now, the Disnerd Thanksgiving celebration

Thanksgiving was a challenging holiday to Disnefy since the main tradition mostly includes...well, eating. Fortunately, the movie this week features one of the most iconic dinner scenes of all time, Disney or otherwise. So, in Lady & the Tramp style, I hosted a spaghetti and [turkey] meatballs Thanksgiving dinner. Don't worry, no kissing was involved. Kind of wish we had accordion music though. I may or may not have busted out singing "Bella Notte" at some point.

I was excited because this was the first time I really hosted a dinner where we sat at the table! All of this stuff is my roommate's, but it looks quite fancy doesn't it?
These candles were my own added inspiration. I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot of Mickey-shaped things this year. 
The spaghetti! Yes, the meatballs were homemade with ground turkey. That was the "Thanksgiving" part of the dinner I guess.Quite delicious, if I say so myself!
We were a small, but thankful bunch. :)
Somehow it's much cuter when Lady and the Tramp are slurping up spaghetti. (No, I did not eat my entire dinner this way.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Hate Tinkerbell

(c) Disney
As far as Disney sidekicks go, Tinkerbell is definitely one of the most famous. She appears at the beginning of nearly every Disney movie (yup, that's her arching over Cinderella's castle at :21-24 seconds in the clip below), and is featured in the grand finale fireworks display at Disney World. More recently, she's had a series of spinoff straight-to-DVD movies. She has become her very own brand. How many other sidekicks can claim that?

You'd think such a popular Disney icon would embody beauty, goodness, loyalty, magic, etc. You'd think he or she would be a representation of Disney values.

But no. Not Tink.

Okay, I guess maybe she's got a couple of those things. She is quite pretty, I'll give her that. Definitely one of the, ahem, curviest female characters thus far. And she does possess an unending share of magic. Just a little bit of the pixie dust that emanates from her body launches people, and ships, into flight.

But good or loyal? Very questionable, in my opinion. There's no doubt that she loves Peter Pan. But this same emotion drives her completely out of control in every other way. She's possessive, violent and moody when it comes to anyone or anything that comes between her and Peter. Without thinking she encourages the Lost Boys to attack and kill Wendy. She even betrays Peter to Captain Hook, hoping that Wendy might suffer as a result. In the end, yes, she saves Peter's life, but don't forget that she was the one who put him in danger in the first place.

On top of it all, and most importantly, she doesn't have any pants. I have very little tolerance for women who don't wear pants (or skirts/dresses, you know what I mean). I'm pretty sure there's a scene when you catch a little butt crack on her. Um, what?! She's a FAIRY for goodness sake.

I am unconvinced that Tinkerbell should be allowed to grace the beginning of every single Disney film or be admired as a Disney symbol. Basically I just don't like her. Maybe I'm losing some fans here by writing this post, but I don't care! Bring on the critics! Tink stinks!

Note: please refer to Rule #7 in the "Rules for my Blog" post.