Monday, October 31, 2011

#10: Rhymes with Cute

Melody Time, 1948
watched October 23, 2011

Little Toot is the most popular segment from Melody Time, which, like Make Mine Music, is another collection of shorts. It's not hard to see why he was popular - an anthropomorphized tugboat with a name that rhymes with cute? Catchy little harmonic song by the Andrews Sisters? Genius.

I actually think this short is very similar to Pinocchio. Little Toot is a well-meaning young tugboat who wants to make his father proud, but instead is always geting into trouble. It's this same theme of wanting to be good and yet messing up over and over again (yup...definitely have no idea what that's like). Just like Pinocchio, Little Toot has a respected father, and yet this father seems to be quite uninvolved in teaching or training his son to be a proper tugboat. I find this quite frustrating. How is he supposed to learn if no one is teaching him? Again, we find absent parents in the story. Even when parents are present they are absent in terms of being active in their child's life.

And again, similar to the end of Pinocchio, Little Toot also proves himself by an act of bravery. In this case, he helps pull in an ocean liner that is stuck out at sea during a big storm. In a moment when the stakes are high, Little Toot comes through and earns the respect from the rest of the community.

I questioned Pinocchio's change of heart at the end, and I think this little story raises similar questions for me. I see the same theme of the protagonist redeeming himself in a situation where he at first is utterly helpless to change or be good. Do these stories communicate to us that we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (or whatever the equivalent is for tugboats... anchors? ropes?) and simply be better, do better - and eventually things will fall into place? This narrative is so ingrained in our society that sometimes we don't even realize we live by it. I believe it is one reason the Gospel of grace has become so distorted in the Western church.

Both Pinocchio and Little Toot are based on children's books. It's an interesting message to be giving kids don't you think?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#9: What it means to be [fun and fancy] free

Fun & Fancy Free, 1947
watched October 16, 2011
(c) Disney
First off, a shout out to my new friends, Christopher and Tiana, who saved me from having to cancel the viewing of Fun & Fancy Free because I hadn't reserved the DVD from the library early enough while I was on vacation. They own nearly all of the 51 Disney animated films and are way more Disnerdy than I am (they use the term "Disney Apologists" - haha). I don't know if I should be relieved or jealous. ;)

F&FF is a two-part series of shorts, the first called "Bongo" and the second an adaptation of "Jack & the Beanstalk", featuring Mickey as Jack, as well as Donald Duck and Goofy. Not sure yet if I'll get to "Mickey and the Beanstalk."

Bongo is a popular and successful circus bear that longs to live out in the wild. Although he appears to have a nice life in the circus, he is treated horribly by his owners. It's not as glamorous as one would think. One day, by a happy circumstance, he finds himself free of his cage and finally able to live as a wild bear. However, he quickly discovers that the outside world is much more overwhelming than he realized. He needs to find his own food and shelter, and there are many dangers that he never knew existed, including threatening bears who square dance. (OK. So the square dancing isn't so threatening. but I thought I'd mention it just because it was so random!)

I'm reminded of several Gospel narratives where Jesus reminds his followers that life with him is costly. (See Luke 9:23-25 for one example.) While Bongo longs to be free, he doesn't realize how hard it will be to fend for himself in the wild. In the same way a lot of people hope for eternal life, but fail to understand that the only way to get there is to follow Jesus, which includes "denying yourself and picking up your cross daily." The easy life of self-indulgence has to go away. Just as Bongo was a bit naive in thinking that once he stepped out of that cage everything would immediately be better - we must not think that becoming a Christian is a one-step action. It's a daily, moment by moment process, and it is not always simple.

Still, Bongo's longing for freedom resonates with me. Who wants to be stuck living in a cage, having to be a slave to something that doesn't even bring real pleasure? Being popular and successful in the circus may seem appealing at first, but not in comparison to the fresh air, the beauty of the mountains and trees, and living as you were created to be. So the solution isn't to turn back and stay in captivity. No, stepping outside was the right choice, and it's the best choice for us as well.

Life with Jesus is not perfect, in fact it is sometimes quite difficult. When one gives up a life of sin, pain, loss and failure are pretty much guaranteed. But it's totally worth it. With the rainy weather and dangerous enemy square-dancing bears, there are also blue skies, endless fields of flowers, and a place where you can love and be loved. With God we are truly free.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#8: Awesome Alliteration for a Mediocre Movie

Make Mine Music!, 1946
watched October 12, 2011
This was the first time since I began this blog that I got the chance to watch one of the movies with kids. I took the opportunity last week while visiting my friend Lindsay, whose two girls (Lilly, 4 and Mia, 2) absolutely love Disney princesses. Unfortunately it wasn't one of the princess movies. But it was still fun! Seeing it through their eyes definitely affected how I experienced the movie for myself. The four-year-old, Lilly, was quite bored. I think she was confused as to why there was no story and that the scene kept changing every few minutes. She was also quite frightened by the wolf in the "Peter in the Wolf" clip. Mia on the other hand, seemed a little more curious. Her favorite scenes were any that had "horshies!" in them.  heehee.
i got to watch this one with two awesome girls, lilly and mia! :)

Well, we're dealing with another mish mash of shorts. Make Mine Music! is sort of a cheaper, less polished, pop version of Fantasia. The songs feature popular singers from the 40s, but beyond that there wasn't much to get excited about. I found myself feeling a little sleepy even though it was only an hour long! (Although, that may or may not have had anything to do with my lack of sleep earlier on during my vacation. What can I say? I'm old.)

I need to get creative in order to get us through these war-time movies... So I thought maybe for something different I'd try to summarize each segment into a single phrase or sentence. And in the same fashion as its title, let's make them alliterative. Just for fun. Try saying these five times fast!

(I've included links to Youtube videos of each clip, if you're curious to see if I got them right!)

Blue Bayou - A beautiful bird by the banks of the blue bayou
(Do bayous even have banks? oh well.)

All the Cats Join In - A pointy pencil produces props to prepare for prancing partners at the party!
(Look for the part where one boy won't dance with a girl until the eraser erases part of her butt to make her skinnier! Ughh.)

Without You - Weepy watercolor of willows in winter wash a windowpane
(I think this is the one that made me sleepy...)

Casey at the Bat - Casey caught a case of cocky, caused a catastrophe for his crew of comrades.

Two Silhouettes - A divine duet of dark dancers delicately dip and dart through a drove of decor.
(So, they weren't really that divine. This was one of the more boring segments. And there were quite a few.)

Peter and the Wolf - A foolish fellow and a few friends follow a fierce furry fiend into the forest.
(Musically I enjoyed this one the most, though the animation was less than stellar.)

After You've Gone - Illustrated instruments impressively improvise as imaginary individuals.
(Look for the weird fingers playing the piano that also look like female legs. Kind of disturbing.)

Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet - Handsome hat has a hankering to hang with his headgear honey.
(I though this scene was probably the most fun both in story and song.) 

The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met - Whopping whale wants to warble, when wishful wheeler-dealer whacks him, so he went to wonderland.
(I'm sure there could be some lesson in here about recognizing the talents in others and not squelching their opportunities to use them.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Timon and Pumbaa: you'll learn to love 'em.

Well, I already do. Timon and Pumbaa are hands down THE best Disney sidekicks.

Their genius is even more amazing when you realize that they actually only have about half an hour of screen time. Although my review of The Lion King won't be for months, I thought I needed at least some sort of post from my Lion King 3D viewing. So here it is: my homage to Timon and Pumbaa.

These guys are the classic odd couple. Timon is the a bossy smart-alec meerkat who thinks he knows everything. Pumbaa, the lovable warthog, is a little less self confident and yet quite resourceful. They are drawn together as friends because of what they do have in common - being outcasts. (We don't know Timon's story from this movie, but The Lion King 1 1/2 fills us in. It's a kind of "mid-quel" and actually quite funny. I recommend it for any Timon and Pumbaa fans.) And although their "Hakuna Matata" way of life may seem escapist or avoidant, they develop a strong bond with Simba, showing courage and loyalty even in dangerous times.

But as a good sidekick, what's most memorable about Timon and Pumbaa are their hilarious lines of dialogue. It seems like everything that comes out of their mouth could become a comedic quote. Here are a few of my favorites. Make sure you vote for your favorite in my poll on the left column!

(1) Meeting Simba - This whole interaction just says so much about their characters in their first few moments on screen.  I love how proud Pumbaa is of his observation.
T: Wow, he looks blue.
P: I'd say brownish gold!
T: No, no ,no, I mean he's depressed.
P: Oh.

I couldn't find the first clip in English so I had to combine it with Hakuna Matata. You can watch (1) at 1:48-1:53 and (2) at 4:16-4:23

(2) Hakuna Matata - These lyrics are so genius, because we all know what Pumbaa was about to sing, and we laugh because fart jokes never get old.
P: And I got down-hearted.
T: How did you feel?
P: Everytime that I...
T: Pumbaa, not in front of the kids.
P: Oh. Sorry.

(3) Under the Stars - Just one example of Timon being smart, and Pumbaa being brilliant.
P: Hey, Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
T: Pumbaa, I don't wonder; I know.
P: Oh. What are they?
T: They're fireflies. Fireflies that, uh... got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
P: Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
T: Pumbaa, wit' you, everything's gas.

(4) Can you feel the sarcasm tonight? Apparently Elton John was worried about Timon & Pumbaa singing his beloved ballad. I don't think he had anything to worry about. Their part keeps it from becoming an awkward mushy love song about two animals.
T: And if he falls in love tonight /it can be assumed
P: His carefree days with us are history
T: In short our pal is doomed!

(5) Dress in drag and do the hula? Even during the dramatic scene, Timon and Pumbaa manage to steal the show with the most hilarious dance/musical sequence ever! 

T: Luau!! If you're hungry for a hunk of fat and juicy meat / Eat my buddy Pumbaa here, 'cause he is a treat / Come on down and dine / On this tasty swine/ All you hafta do is get in line. / Arrrre you achin'...
P: Yup, yup, yup.
T: Forrrr some bacon?
P: Yup, yup, yup.
T: Heee's a big pig.
P: Yup, yup.
T: You can be a big pig, too. Oy!

There were so many others but I had to narrow it down. Feel free to add your own favorite Timon & Pumbaa moments in the comments!  And don't forget to vote in the poll!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#6 & #7: Saludos Amigos & The Three Cabelleros

Saludos Amigos, 1942 & The Three Cabelleros, 1944
watched October 2, 2011

The next few movies (and blog posts) are going to be a little less exciting, now that we're out of the Golden Age and in World War 2 Era. I hope you'll stick with me until we get to Cinderella, one of my favorites.

Since both of these movies were very short (one was less than an hour! I guess Dumbo isn't the shortest after all...) those of us who had gathered to watch that night decided to watch them together. It's just as well since they are very similar and not much really happens in either!

You may wonder why these movies are so different from the other features included in the list of Disney animated films. Well, I didn't know either until recently. :) These two movies came out of a "goodwill tour" of South and Central America on which the US government had sent Walt Disney and his team of animators/artists during the war. According to my sources (aka wikipedia), the US was attempting to counteract ties between Latin America and Nazi Germany. Well, I don't know how successful this was, but that doesn't have much to do with what I typically write about anyway. But now you know something about the origins behind these 2 Latin-themed films.

Neither film has really any story. Saludos Amigos has an educational/informational tone to it, narrated in an almost documentary style. Using a combination of live action footage and animation, it describes the customs and people in South American countries including Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The Three Cabelleros stars Donald Duck, along with Brazilian parrot José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster. It's loosely based around the premise of the opening of 3 gifts that Donald Duck receives, each serving as the introduction to a couple of different short segments. There is some rather fun Brazilian samba music throughout, but towards the end Donald Duck falls into a mad stupor over a beautiful woman and it all becomes a little Pink Elephant-ish. That's when I gave up on trying to figure out what the point of it all was.

What is most disappointing about these films is the clear lack of artistry compared to what we've seen so far. After having watched Bambi and The Lion King so recently, these films seemed cheap and hurried. The minimal time and resources put towards these movies resulted in underwhelming products, with simplified animation and unimpressive shallow backgrounds. It makes one more fully appreciate the amount of work it takes to achieve truly beautiful works of art that so many of Disney's other animated films embody.

But perhaps there is yet some redeeming quality to Saludos and Cabelleros (I'm grasping at straws here, people...) Although to my 21st century point of view the short segments in these films appear rather biased (describing South and Central American way of life as "strange" and "exotic"), I wonder how they would come across to a 1940s audience. Most Americans at that time probably had never traveled to Latin America or even seen pictures of those places or people. No doubt as a result they had many misconceptions or even prejudices of those cultures. And while Disney films have clearly not been known for being the most culturally sensitive form of media, the overall feel of these movies is generally positive and celebratory. So, while the aim of these films may have been to make ties with people in South and Central America, it's possible that Americans also gained a more accurate perspective of our neighbors to the south. If that's really the case, then perhaps making these movies was not such a waste of time.

On the other hand, I suppose one could also argue that war does nothing good, especially when it comes to Disney animation.

Friday, October 7, 2011


taking a week off of work and blogging. stay tuned for more Disnerdiness next next week!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Disnerd Birthday

so glad they managed to include a floating head in this poster! :)
I have so totally embraced my Disnerd identity that I decided to celebrate my birthday by watching The Lion King in 3D with a bunch of friends. It was so fun to watch my favorite Disney movie on a big screen with a live audience! The 3D part was cool, although, for such a great movie, you don't really need fancy effects to add to the experience. Still, it was fun to see what they did to adapt the film for the 3D screen. My favorite part was probably "The Circle of Life" opening scene. I'm not sure if it was just the excitement of seeing the movie in theaters again, but I totally got chills watching that part. :)

The audience was filled with families with young kids who had probably never seen the movie before. Or if they had, they certainly did not know it as well as the rest of us in the audience, who were clearly in their 20s or 30s and who had grown up in the Disney Renaissance era (1990s - best Disney era EVER). So it was very entertaining to watch the movie both with kids who were reacting to all the humor, drama and fun for the first time, as well as with other adults who shamelessly sang along to all the songs and were quoting lines before they were spoken. I loved that multigenerational experience - it's what I love so much about Disney movies. No matter what age you are they can be enjoyed over and over again. Even though I know nearly the whole movie by heart, I was still struck with awe, sadness, fear and laughter throughout the whole film.

I'm saving a full review of The Lion King for when it's time to watch it in order. But one of my next posts will be dedicated to my favorite sidekick duo, Timon & Pumbaa! stay tuned! 

My birthday was full of other Disnerdy goodness as well including:
  • My team at work threw me a Tangled-themed birthday celebration, complete with Tangled paper plates, napkins and Happy Birthday banner. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the actual occasion (it was a surprise and so I was not prepared with a camera!) but I saved some of the napkins and the banner!

the front of the napkin has rapunzel on it, but this is the side that's pinned up on my bulletin board. hehe
  • Kylene lent me her cute Minnie Mouse ears to wear at the movie theater (I took them off during the actual movie since I didn't want to be rude to the people behind me.) 
sorry it's blurry, blame elizabeth! :)
  • My two infographic partners in crime, Glenn and Abi, drew me these great infographics on the back of the birthday card from my team. Okay so Glenn's isn't really Disney-related but it's still awesome. 

  • And last but not least, my brother Tim sent me the Blu-ray/DVD combo version of Tangled! I am super excited about that, even though I don't have a Blu-ray player. I must find one so that I can watch all the special features! 
is it me or do i have a few more wrinkles than before?
 A BIG thank you to all my friends, family and colleagues for making my Disnerd birthday such a special one! I am truly blessed; not only do people still love me despite the fact that I'm such a Disnerd, they also embrace it and celebrate with me!

these post-meal pics are always kind of awkward. oh well! thanks ladies for a wonderful night!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bambi and... Hulk?

This is really random. Well, it may not be as random as you think because Disney actually owns Marvel. But I'm pretty sure this existed before that merger happened.

This is a whole new spin on what it means to "Go Green!

See the whole comic here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why are so many Disney characters orphans?

I'm intrigued by the portrayal of parents in Disney movies, mostly because it is really rare for any hero or main character to have both parents around for the whole movie. In Bambi, this is the first time we even see both the mother and the father of the main character. As I mentioned in my Dumbo post, in these films we find most of our protagonists at some great disadvantage. Since these are children's movies, it makes sense that they would use the most traumatic disadvantage from a child's perspective: the loss of one or both parents. That must be one reason why orphans are so prominent in children's literature.

Having no parents or missing parents is a way for audiences to sympathize with the main character, but it also serves as an opportunity for the character to discover new love or new family-like relationships. In Tarzan, my favorite line in the whole movie comes near the end when he returns to help the gorilla family who has raised him as their own. Kerchak, the patriarch, says to him, "You came back." Tarzan replies, "I came home." (I seriously get choked up every time.) The message, "at first I didn't belong, and now I do," is truly powerful, and I would suggest, wonderfully echoes the message of the Gospel.

And so here in Bambi, the death of his mother is extremely tragic. In fact, it is so dramatic that we forget that we don't actually see her die. But then, Bambi's up-until-then-distant father, the Great Prince of the Forest (this dude could seriously give Harry Potter's patronus a run for its money), reaches out to Bambi. It is implied that he is the one who takes on parenting responsibilities, which, in normal deer behavior, pretty much never happens. When the stoic, serious father shows that he in fact dearly (hehe, no pun intended) loves his child, it resonates deeply with any of us who may have less than perfect relationships with our own father (and let's face it, that's all of us).  Loss or loneliness is a great plot device for the character to move towards a happy ending and for the audience to be drawn into all of the emotions, both painful and triumphant.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcome!