Friday, August 31, 2012

#BONUS: Enchanted

Enchanted, 2007
watched August 19, 2012

Thus far I've been pretty strict about keeping to the official Disney animated canon. But I could not resist including Enchanted! Even though it's only partially animated, it probably has more in common with the animated films than Disney's live action stuff. Enchanted has the perfect blend of amusing self-mockery and the classic "Disney magic" that makes Disney movies what they are. I love that the film can make fun of its makers while still being thoroughly enjoyable and fun.

Since this isn't an official review, I'm sharing seven reasons why you should watch Enchanted, preferably multiple times:

7. Amy Adam's spot-on performance - You can't deny that Amy Adams has pretty much mastered the whole Disney princess thing. Though technically not a princess, her over-the-top, optimistic romantic idealism exudes exactly what is needed to play Giselle. My goal in life is to figure out how to use her ridiculously awesome hand gestures in public without freaking people out. I haven't been successful yet.

6. James Marsden's singing voice - Did anyone else know he could sing? Man can that man sing. I have a weakness for guys who can sing. SIGH.

5. Patrick Dempsey's overabundant tufts of hair - I have a theory that within his ridiculously thick locks of hair this guy has secret invisible womanizing lasers that target unsuspecting females. You could hide a forest in that hair.

4. James Marsden's piercing blue eyes - I think I could stare into his eyes forever. At least until I cried from the beauty of his voice, because obviously if I'm in his presence he is singing to me. There's pretty much no question there.

3. Lots and lots of Easter Eggs - Disney movies are full of clever references, and Enchanted probably has the most, including cameos by Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) as Robert's secretary and Paige O'Hara (voice of Belle) as a soap opera star. I'm sure I have yet to discover all of the movie's secret references, but one of my favorites is Pumbaa, who appears in one of the very last scenes lining up to get Pip's new book.

2. One of the most epic musical numbers I've ever seen - "That's How You Know." Last time I was in Central Park I was really hoping to see an extremely limber and diverse crowd of people break into song and dance. It didn't happen. But I made up for it by breaking into song all on my own. I think Giselle would have been proud.

1. James Marsden's jaws - that man's jaws could slice through steel. Or at least a really delicious homemade apple pie. Yummy.

There you have it, Disnerds. Some really legitimate, thoughtful reasons why you should watch Enchanted. Clearly I had no choice but to include this film in my blog project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fashion Summary

My goal was to get this done before the summer ended...(according to my job, that means end of August.) So here is my super nerdy Disnographic about my Renaissance fashion adventures! Yup, it's probably more than you ever wanted to know. But I figure that's like my whole blog. So really I'm just being consistent.

I am super proud of myself for putting together a whopping 47 outfits (46 Disney, 1 Avengers) and spending only 80 bucks on 10 new items! I've realized that I'm pretty passionate about being creative on a budget. There are few things that thrill me more.

I also find it quite interesting that I created outfits for twice as many male characters than female characters. I think there are actually a lot more male characters in Disney movies. Weird, huh?

Now for my faves!

1. Favorite Hero Outfit: Hercules
I love this color combination! It's something I definitely would not have done before... in fact, I think this is the only orange-rust colored thing I've ever owned.
Honorable mention: Beast

2. Favorite Heroine Outfit: Belle
Here's an outfit that required no new purchases. Most people remember Belle's yellow evening gown but her "daytime" look is much more my style.
honorable mention: Mulan

3. Favorite Villain Outfit: Gaston
I love that this outfit is both accurate and still totally wearable. I've never worn a belt around this shirt before but now I know I can!
honorable mention: Frollo

4. Favorite Sidekick Outfit: Magic Carpet
This was definitely one of my most creative outfits, straying far from the original character's look. I loved creating a new outfit from old clothes that I could wear again in the future.
Honorable mention: Crikee and Flounder

How do you think I did? Which was your favorite outfit from the entire project? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I need more verbal affirmation, people! haha. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

An Artful Accident: Milwaukee Art Museum

Last weekend I spent the day at the Milwaukee Art Museum with my artsy designer friends, Courtney and Grete. We were there especially to check out a special exhibit on Posters in Paris from the late 19th/early 20th century. I felt very sophisticated and smart talking about design with them all afternoon. (No pictures were allowed in that exhibit, unfortunately.)
Milwaukee Art Museum from the outside - it's a beautiful building!

the main entrance has a really amazing ceiling
After that exhibit we wandered upstairs to check out other things in the museum, and what did we come across?

An exhibit about Disney animation!!! 

Needless to say, I was really excited. Even though the exhibit was clearly designed for people who are three feet tall.

The entrance to the exhibit featured my favorite character from The Incredibles: Dash!
The exhibit displayed how Disney artists were influenced by classical art to create not only beautiful but authentic designs. Art from throughout history have served as inspiration for the animated worlds created in Disney films. I was impressed by the wide variety of work that lent ideas towards a single film's overall look. As a designer myself, it was cool to get a glimpse inside Disney artists' "creative process."
The Beast transformation scene inspired by a Michelangelo sculpture
An antique candelabra and teapot as models for Lumiere and Mrs. Potts
Some of concept artist Mary Blair's inspiration for Cinderella - Picasso, Matisse and Braque
On one wall there was a matching game where you had to match up scenes from Disney or Pixar films with the art piece that inspired them. Grete and Courtney made me play the game to see if I was both a credible Disney and art fan. Since this game was clearly geared towards kids, I was relieved when I got every one correct!
Matching Disney scenes with classic art that inspired them: success!
In addition to the side by side comparisons, the exhibit also featured some original character sketches and scuptures, as well as storyboard excerpts. The Disnerd and art nerd in me were kind of going a little nuts at the chance to see those up close and in person.
An original sketch of Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty
character scuptures from Finding Nemo
Storyboard pictures from various Pixar films
So, it was a wonderful day of nerding out about art. I'm really glad we decided to explore the rest of the museum. What a happy accident!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#47: Failing Family

Meet the Robinsons, 2007
watched August 12, 2012

While the futuristic Jetsons-esque setting of this film may be unique in the Disney animated canon, the story still centers on a winsome orphan who longs to find where he belongs. Blah blah blah.

Sorry. It's been 47 weeks; you can't blame me for being a little weary of the repetition.

But okay. While the film's humor is a bit more Emperor's New Groove and less Timon and Pumbaa, it's still one of the better 'modern' Disney films. (I suppose anything is a step up after Home on the Range, though. I'm still having nightmares about hypnotized cows.)  

Lewis is a clever orphan whose wacky inventions often interfere with his desire to become adopted. Again, we see optimism outweighing difficulties, as he makes it his goal to invent a machine that will help him remember his birth mother, believing she is the only parent who will ever love him.

But in a surprising (or maybe just amusing, let's be honest here) turn of events, Lewis finds himself blasted into the future, where he meets Wilbur Robinson, a spunky teenager, and his large family of crazy characters. Unless Lewis can fix the time machine that brought him there, he may have to stay in the future forever. Gradually, however, Lewis starts to think staying may not be such a bad thing, as he spends time with this unconventional family that not only welcomes him with open arms, but also holds startlingly different values.

The Robinsons love failure. In fact, they erupt with joy and excitement when Lewis tries to fix the peanut butter and jelly dispenser and doesn't succeed. Though Lewis has never had a family, he knows that this is not normal. When our own culture is so unabashedly performance-based, the audience, too, finds the family's extreme positivity towards failure quite alarming.

Lewis realizes that the Robinson home is not only really weird and fun, but it's also a place where love is unconditional. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn and grow, to "keep moving forward." He can't help but long to become a part of this family; in fact it seems he's always belonged there.

Like Lewis, we seek love and acceptance in many places. A lot of times we try to prove we're worthy through moral behavior, financial success, or the ability to "fit in." We work tirelessly in effort to show that we deserve to be included, invited, loved. But we will never achieve perfection this way, and thus we will always feel the sting of rejection.

There is one family, however, where success means nothing. And that's because it's the family where success is achieved through one family member. Through the Son all of our failures and faults become opportunities to receive grace, to learn and grow. In this family we can be just who we are, whether we wear our pants backwards, teach frogs to sing jazz, or shoot meatballs out of canons. We can create, invent, work hard. And fail.

When we're adopted into this family, we quickly realize that we will always belong, now and moving forward.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

#46: Let's cluck

(c) Disney
Chicken Little, 2005
watched August 5, 2012

Chicken Little is one of those familiar tales that has a variety of names and outcomes, with a single element that threads them all together, the famous adage: "The sky is falling!"

But Disney's 2005 version (there was a 1943 Disney short of the same title) veers rather far from the original folk tale, taking a sci-fi spin (yup, more aliens) and adding pop culture-y humor. While the alleged falling sky plays a key role in the plot, Chicken Little is less of a warning not to believe everything you hear, and more about the power of believing in the people you love.

Chicken Little is the ultimate underdog. He's small and unpopular, and always seems to get the short end of the stick. While he struggles to be accepted by his peers, the film's central relationship is between Chicken Little and his father, who happens to be [GASP!] a widower. Similar to Tarzan, Chicken Little does not focus on redemption from his embarrassing "acorn incident," but on making his father proud once and for all.

Though he is encouraged to communicate his issues to his father, instead he joins the baseball team. You know, communication, baseball. Same thing. When Chicken Little finally hits a home run against their biggest rival, their family problems appear to be resolved. Then the aliens arrive, and it all goes haywire.

Dude. Aliens ruin everything.

Ultimately, Chicken Little realizes he needs to talk to his father about how he feels. Amidst invading aliens wreaking havoc through their town, father and son have a heartfelt conversation for the first time. At last, Chicken Little hears the words he has longed to hear: "I love you, son."

Although our Father is not at all embarrassed or unsupportive like Mr. Little, we often perceive him this way. We believe the lies that he's a father from whom we must earn love and approval. That our dreams and hopes are foolish in his eyes. That he is ashamed when we make mistakes. These ideas about our Father's character come from a lack of communication. The more we distance ourselves from him, the longer we perpetuate these false beliefs.

Sometimes it takes catastrophic situations in our lives, like an alien invasion, to serve as a catalyst to push us towards him, leading us to cry out and express our despair. When this happens, we see that he's nothing like the cold, disapproving parent we thought he was. Close conversations with him reveal the truth: our Father's love is unconditional. All along he has been waiting to tell us, "I love you, son." "I love you, daughter."

Maybe aliens aren't so bad after all.

Monday, August 6, 2012

#45: Rock Bottom

(c) Disney
Home on the Range, 2004
watched July 29, 2012

Well friends. We've arrived. This is what it feels like. Rock bottom is pretty painful. I pray that you never have to feel this pain.

(Helpful Tip: Never watch Home on the Range. Ever.)

Want to know how to create the worst Disney movie of all time? Here are five tips from those who successfully achieved this feat:

1) Feature a really annoying main character.
Disney's first mistake was to cast Roseanne as Maggie, the cow. I wonder if they sat around thinking, "Hey, whose voice would be most annoying to listen to for 74 minutes? Oh, I know, the woman infamous for singing the national anthem in that crass, nasally voice of hers. Perfect. Let's get her."

2) Surround said main character with even more annoying supporting characters. 
Nearly all of the other characters are equally as whiny, stupid, and un-funny, possibly with the exception of Grace, one of the two sidekick cows. I about died when the villain, Alameda Slim, begins yodeling, and there's a sort of "Pink Elephants On Parade" thing going on, except with cows. And not died in the "I'm so excited I can't contain myself" kind of way. The other kind of dying. I want those five minutes of my life back, Disney!!

3) Tell a ridiculously stupid, boring story that no one cares about.
Okay, so confession time: the DVD was slightly warped and we had to skip through about the first 20 minutes of the movie. Given my obvious feelings about this movie, I was not too upset about this. But even without the beginning, one should still be able to engage with the remainder of the film. There was absolutely nothing that pulled me into the story. I kind of just cringed whenever anyone said something and someone else said something back. So, basically the whole time.

4) Don't spend any time making it look good. Just get it done.
Without knowing much about the film's production history, it's pretty clear that Disney spent significantly less time working on Range. It looks like a five year old could have drawn it. (Sorry to the five year olds that I know! I am pretty sure you all could do way better than this, actually.) At least with other dislikable movies such as Pocahontas, there is still some artistry worth observing and appreciating. Nothing to see here folks. Just a bunch of cows and a fat red-headed cowboy villain.

5) Include as many crappy songs as you can. 
Seriously. At the moment the first song begins, I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel. But unfortunately I still had another hour to watch. It's incredible that the same man who is responsible for A Whole New World, I See the Light, and dozens of other classics also has (You Ain't) Home on the Range and Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo on his resume. Hopefully they're way down at the bottom where no one will ever remember to check.

There you have it folks! A recipe for instant success. At failure.

I'm kind of ashamed that this movie is counted in Disney's animated canon. How can this be included in the same list as The Lion King, Cinderella and Tangled? It makes absolutely no sense.

Perhaps you're asking: But Laura, you always manage to find something good in every Disney movie! What about this one?

Here's the good news about Home on the Range: I will never have to watch it again.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

#44: Taking Our Place

Brother Bear, 2003
watched July 22, 2012

I've decided to set aside my issues with Phil Collins' ridiculous soundtrack so I can focus on the story. Couldn't resist those cheesy lyrics, huh Phil? Sigh.

After several weeks in outer space, we've returned to the wild outdoors and anthropomorphic animals. Brother Bear, one of the few Disney films set in North America, is also unique due to its nearly all-male cast. This is undoubtedly a "bro" movie.

But even though I'm not a bro, the sibling interactions featured in this film still resonate with me. Here we see Disney showcase a more complex, deeper kind of love, the love between family, like in Lilo & Stitch. As a middle child, I especially connect to the torment of the middle brother, Denahi, who unwittingly becomes the story's villain.

Beyond the three brothers, however, another relationship comes into focus as the story progresses. Kenai, the overconfident youngest brother, is turned into a bear after he unnecessarily kills one. He meets a bear cub named Koda, and as they travel together, Kenai's disdain for Koda's joie de vivre reveals his deep prejudice against their kind. In Kenai's mind, bears are merely savage monsters, and he is keenly intent on getting transformed back into a human as soon as possible.

But, as most Disney characters eventually do, Kenai realizes that he was completely wrong about everything. As he literally steps into the life of a bear, he learns that his ignorance and unwarranted hatred has cost something, and the one who pays most dearly is Koda, whom he has grown to deeply care for.

Kenai's inner and outer transformations are quite significant. While he begins the film as a selfish, impulsive guy, we find at the conclusion someone who makes a life-altering sacrifice for the sake of another. But what causes Kenai to change? It is the experience of walking in another's shoes (or paws?). It is through his relationship with a community different from his own. It is in the discovery that misconceptions come at a high cost.

Change takes place when we take the place of someone else. We experience situations as well as relationships that stretch us and give us new perspectives. Only as we encounter differences do we realize that our own worldview is filled with stereotypes and prejudice. When our world expands like this, we have the opportunity to become people, or bears, who love more fully and freely.

Of course, true transformation is only possible through the one who became a man, so he could walk in our shoes (or sandals?) and give us a completely new perspective. His life-altering sacrifice shows us the perfect example of what it looks like to take the place of another. And through him we are forever altered, taking our place as people guided by love.