Magical Movies Tour: Frozen 2

I have so much to say about Frozen 2, that I started, stopped and restarted, reworked and rethought what I wanted to say with this essay.

Did I want to talk about this movie is really, super gay? Did I want to talk about Kristoff as a model of positive masculinity? (“My love is not fragile” is incredible) Did I want to talk about Queen Anna? Or Olaf modeling working through an existential crisis for the children? Colonialism? There’s so much! It’s a movie that’s packed full of stuff.

I couldn’t pick so instead here’s what I have to say. Frozen 2 is very good. The animation is cool and great. The story is fantastic. The songs are very good. Idina Menzel, good singer. Jonathan Groff, also good singer. Kristen Bell and Josh Gad, do less singing this time around, but they also good. Sterling K. Brown is around too. He’s great. There’s not really a villain which is good because Hans might be the weakest part of Frozen.

I love the idea of Anna and Elsa as a bridge between the people of Arrendell and the indigneous Northaldra. It’s a nice piece of symmetry. I really love the set piece in the glacier that goes along with my favorite song in the movie, “Show Yourself.” I sob each and everytime I watch it.

It’s really a surprise that I’m having trouble wrapping up, as I am TERRIBLE at endings. And this brings us to the end of the road here. I have watched ALL of the Walt Disney Animation Studios films.

It was a very fun project that I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and found some new favorites. (Bambi, Lady And The Tramp, Treasure Planet!) But now it’s time for something completely different! I considered plowing forward with animation and going into Pixar, and I still might, but I need a break from that kind of world and maybe to feel a little more grown up. And So! Starting next Monday, I will be watching all of the James Bond movies! I think it’s going to be really fun. I’ll also be checking in with more of The Weird Bits That Made Me, and of course on October 30, it’s the exciting return of Fangirl Loves Star Wars with The Mandolorian Season 2. (Ahsoka Lives! #WheresEzra? BABY YODA RETURNS!) After that, The 007 Project will move to Wednesdays. We cool? Great!

Thanks for coming along on the magical movie tour, this was an exciting thing for me. It made me miss Disney less. (I HAVE MY TRIP IN MARCH BOOKED AND I AM SO AFRAID)

Magical Movies Tour: Ralph Breaks The Internet

I think you all probably remember from a few weeks ago how much I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and while I hadn’t watched Ralph Breaks The Internet yet, although I’d attempted to a few times. (I started it on multiple air plane rides and fell asleep each time.)

I’ll say this for the movie, it sure does pack a lot of fun visual gags into it, but even, midday, settled comfortably on my couch, I was having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie.

I think the plot is perfectly solid, and honestly, I think Ralph and Vanellope are as fun as ever. I also like all of the new friends they meet. I do think the movie is maybe 15 minutes too long, and thinks it’s more clever than it actually is.

That said, each individual sequence is great, I appreciate the light Disney Princess parody and I really like the message about the ways that people grow up and apart without losing one another. Sarah Silverman’s performance as Vanellope continues to stun me, teetering right on the annoying line that she’s always walked so well. Her confusion and searching in this movie are definitely work the best.

Overall though, I just didn’t feel the heart in this one, which bummed me out because Wreck-It Ralph was so chock full of heart. I know a lot of people love this one and I just didn’t get it.

Next time, our final rewatch, we head into the unkown with Frozen 2.

Magical Movies Tour: Moana

I love Moana. I love Moana so much. Trying to decide what to focus on for this essay is almost impossible, but I’ve decided very specifically to focus on how Moana, the character in the movie Moana, goes perfectly on every step of “The Hero’s Journey”

Shall we?

The Call To Adventure

From the time she’s a literal baby, The Ocean is calling on Moana to venture out and save her people, she drops the Heart of Tafiti into her tiny baby lap. Of course we must first establish her normal life, as the chief’s daughter she’s learning to lead the tribe. It’s going very well.

Refusal Of The Call

Moana spends her whole life resisting this urge to go out onto the ocean and leave her home behind. She has responsibilities and also her father really hates the ocean. BUT, her island is in trouble and she goes into a cave and has a vision of her people’s history as voyagers and realizes what she needs to do.

Supernatural Aid

The Ocean itself finally sends Moana on her way, as does the spirit of her Grandmother, who passes away right as Moana realizes her true calling.

Passing The Threshold Of Adventure

I mean, she LITERALLY HAS TO GET PAST A REEF SURROUNDING HER ISLAND TO BEGIN HER QUEST. (To find Maui and replace the heart of Tafiti) Also, when she meets Maui and convinces him to join her

Belly Of The Whale

Moana fight the Kakamora, realizing that this journey will be perilous and not as easy as she thought.

The Road Of Trials

This is largely the battle with Tomatoa, but also the journey across the ocean, where Maui teaches her to sail, and regains his powers of shapeshifting with his hook. This is also when Maui and Moana fail at their first attempt to get the heart to Tafiti, blocked by the demon TaKa.

The Meeting With The Goddess/Atonement With The Father/Abyss/Apotheosis

After Maui flees in their failure, Moana communes with her ancestors, especially her grandmother and realizes that she is a hero and she needs to finish her quest. (I weep, and weep like a tiny baby.)

Here the hero is supposed to have a greater realization about themselves and their quest, here, Moana know at last, who she is and what she wants.

The Final Boon

Moana restores the heart! She wins! Also, she realizes that trauma is not the defining portion of a person’s life and soul, when she returns the heart and it is revealed that Taka is the heartless Tafiti.

The Master Of Two Worlds/The Freedom To Live

Upon returning to her people, Moana teaches them to voyage once again, and takes her place as the next chief. Also, Maui returns to his place as a great hero.

I left a few categories and steps that didn’t apply, but otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward telling and I love it so much. Frozen II also fits pretty well, but we’re mostly going to be talking about feminism and matrilineal lines of power when we get there.

Next time, I do my best to finish a movie that I feel asleep watching on planes like 4 times, Ralph Breaks The Internet

Magical Movies Tour: Zootopia

It’s kind of amazing that Disney manged to make a movie like Zootopia that is an entertaining mystery, features adorable and interesting animal characters, and is someone how a very effective fable about the dangers of both personal prejudice and institutional other-ing.

Also, Shakira plays a Gazelle.

I really quite enjoyed watching Zootopia again, especially in light of the…well, everything, lately, and I think it hold up pretty well, despit being a little on the naive and simple side. (But I mean, this is a movie where Jason Bateman voices a fox in a Hawaiian shirt, so we can only expect so much of it right?) I also appreciate that pop culture references, which aren’t totally glaring and feel relatively timeless.

What’s even more exceptional is the absolutely perfect voice casting, even using almost entirely celebrities. Ginnifer Goodwin and Bateman do excellent work as our leads, Judy Hopps and Nick Wylde, and I especially like Jenny Slate as the villainous Mayer Bellwether.

I also appreciate the way the animation and environments look, Zootopia doesn’t really look like any other movie and the animals are uniquely designed and adorable. I particularly like Judy, who really manages to stand out from the crowd with relative teeniness and grey and blue color pallet.

And did I mention that Shakira plays a Gazelle, because that happens and it’s pretty wonderful.

Next time there’s just no telling how far we’ll go with Moana.

Magical Movies Tour: Winnie The Pooh

Literally the only thing I remembered about this Winnie The Pooh movie was that it was released the same weekend as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II, and the marketing campaign was therefore highly engaged in the concept of holding on to childhood as counterprogramming to Deathly Hallows, “And now childhood ends,” approach, and I thought that was absolutely genius at the time. Still do, in fact.

That said, I think the reason that I didn’t particularly remember this one is that it isn’t particularly memorable.

It’s a nice little Hundred Acre Wood story, where Christopher Robin arranges a contest to get Eeyore a new tail, the prize being a pot of honey. Pooh Bear needs that honey, obviously, though he doesn’t win initially, he does in the end. There’s also a digression where the animals fuss over Christopher Robin being kidnapped when he was just off at school for the day, which is terribly sweet.

But it’s also just, there’s so much of this movie that is absolutely trapped in 2011. (The songs are sung by She & Him, for example!) That it loses the timeless quality that makes Winnie The Pooh and his group of friends really special. I do like the animation, which is strong and pretty, but strays too much from the classic feel, without reinventing enough.

I was just underwhelmed by the movie in general, I guess? It wasn’t charming enough and didn’t get the emotional moments right at all, even if all the delightful child logic of this world was on full display.

Next time, we go turbo with Wreck-It Ralph. 

Magical Movies Tour: Tangled

I fell in love with Tangled before I saw it.

I was watching the Oscars and Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were performing, “I See The Light,” and I gasped. The song was wonderful, and so touchingly and lightly performed by these two actors.

Then I watched the movie, and I fell head over heels for it. I loved Rapunzel’s characterization, I loved Donna Murphy’s brilliant voice performance as Mother Gothel, and my god, Levi has never been better than he was as Flynn Ryder.

This was also the return of Alan Menken to the Disney fold, working this time with , and it’s some fine work, some of my favorite that’s not with Howard Ashman. I mentioned, “I See The Light,” but “When Will My Life Begin” is such a wonderful bit of ingenue introduction, and I mentioned Donna Murphy, yeah? “Mother Knows Best” is perfection in a villain song. It’s so full of gaslighting and abuse, and the melody is bouncy and menacing and I love it so much.

The other thing that Tangled has going for it, is that it is funny. It’s really, and honestly a great road trip comedy with fairy tale trappings, aided by Moore and Levi and of course the animators making Rapunzel and Flynn so very loveable and fun to follow.

I also love Rapunzel’s chameleon buddy Pascal, and Maximus a palace horse who acts like a bloodhound for some reason. I’ve never been sure why, but it’s a delightful gag.

Next time we’re back to that Silly Old Bear, and check out Winnie The Pooh. 

Magical Movies Tour: The Princess And The Frog

Isn’t it nice when the stars align and an important movie is also a good one?

The Princess And The Frog earns the first distinction, “important,” by being the last hand drawn animated feature from Walt Disney Animation and for it’s black, working class leading lady. Tiana is a waitress for New Orleans, who after being raised by a bus driver and seamstress, has worked her whole life to open her own restaurant.

She crosses paths with Prince Naveen who is transformed by the wicked Dr. Faccillier into a frog and then because they didn’t follow the rules explicitly (Tiana is not a princess) she turns into a frog rather than him turning back into a man.

It’s, more than a little convoluted when you write it out, but presented visually, Tiana and Naveen’s journey through 1920’s Louisiana is a delightful rom-com, opposites attract romp, punctuated by super fun character designs, and some catchy tunes by Randy Newman.

I really love this movie, and every time I watch it I’m only more enamored. There’s some stuff that I think could have used another pass. (There’s no real connection between Tiana and Dr. Facillier, for example, this feels like an odd error.) And as I get older and more interested in social justice narratives in popular culture, I am in awe of the decisions made with this film. Tiana is in complete control of her destiny from minute one, but this doesn’t prevent conflict or growth. There’s a variety of black faces and bodies on display, the music, that slow New Orleans style jazz is so much fun.

I’m generally on board with The Princess And The Frog getting more attention whenever possible, and am thus super excited for the upcoming retheme of Splash Mountain to a Princess And The Frog ride. I think it’s a brilliant decision that also means we’re going to get Louis Audio Animatronic, which I think fits into Imagineering’s sweet spot perfectly. Also, replacing an attraction based around something super racist, with something based around a strong and exciting Black female protagonist sends the right message.

Next time we continue down the path of magical princesses ,and see the light with Tangled. 

 

Magical Movies Tour: Bolt

Full disclosure, I watched Bolt with a pretty open heart, since it comes from a storytelling tradition I like out of Disney, and the lead is voiced by John Travolta and I watched it the day after Kelly Preston died, so I was disposed to treat him kindly.

That said, Bolt is a sweet little flick in the tradition of Lady And The Tramp, 101 Dalmations and Oliver And Company. It isn’t as good as those, by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t disgrace the tropes either.

Bolt is an adorable doggie actor, the star of his own TV show and he’s spent his whole life being trained to believe he’s the character he plays on TV is who he really is, and his co-star, a child actor named Olivia, is actually Penny, his owner on the show. (She’s also voiced by Miley Cyrus, and they sing a duet together, and I just thought, “MAN, it’s nice that those two charismatic dummies with excellent singing voices got to sing a song together.” I have opinions.)

They’re separated due to shenanigans and Bolt races across the country to get back to his human, while Olivia worries about him and the grown ups around her pressure her to accept his replacement.

On his cross country journey, Bolt makes a reluctant ally in Mittens, an abandoned cat and Rhino, a stuck in his ball hamster who ADORES the show. There are running gags about pigeons as regional locals, which hit the nail in the perfect way.

The jump animation-wise between Meet The Robinsons and this is exceptional, the hair on the animals is well animated, and the character expressions more nuanced. It’s impressive. The movie isn’t as good, but it’s worth a watch if you want something cute. I wish it were a bit more of tear jerker, frankly.

It is an interesting thing that happens sometimes in Disney Movies, where they criticize a major portion of their bussiness model. It is made clear that being a child star sucks, Olivia is miserable. As Miley herself has talked about a lot as she’s become an adult, she hated being Hannah Montana, really hated it.

Next time the new era of greatness truly begins, it’s time head down to New Orleans with The Princess And The Frog

Star Trek: Lower Decks And The Healing Power of Silly

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately that I’m trying to break out of. This isn’t as bad as the actual depression hit I got back in April, but just, a low level blah and lack of motivation, and numbness.

So, I’m trying to get out of it, with my usual stuff, yoga, changing up my diet, abstaining from alcohol, tracking how much water I drink, rearranging my furniture (I bought a new couch! I’m very excited about it!) and, getting out of the rewatch loop.

I decided, since I purchased a year of access to CBS All Access, and there’s a new show that is just the part of Star Trek that’s my favorite, ie, the silly, dopey, jokey parts, I decided to give Lower Decks a whirl.

I was immediately enamored of the show’s sense of humor and of my adorable tiny space dorks. Let’s run down our main cast:

Ensign Brad Boimler: A try hard, rule follower who thinks that Star Fleet is the absolute greatest. He wants to be like the TNG bridge crew, but he’s not really up to that kind of thing.

Ensign Beckett Mariner: Mariner is actually a really talented Star Fleet officer. She’s also the daughter of two high ranking captains and thinks that the rules are bullshit. As a result, she’s been demoted and shifted around and is now stuck on her mother’s ship and it is not going well.

Ensign Sam Rutherford: He’s a big engineering dork who just became a cyborg and is working on that. He’s also super awkward.

Ensign D’Vana Tendi: A new medical recruit. She’s just very bright and shiny and happy to be here.

There’s also the standard Trek bridge crew, who are around, but they’re basically in the same position as these kids are in a standard show, popping in and out of stories as useful.

I’m mostly happy about this show because it is so delightfully silly. It’s not a smart show, it’s stupid in the best way and every one is just a goofy dork and I want them to succeed and be protected. Protect my tiny space dorks! It was exactly what I needed when I needed it and I’m therefore very happy to have it. It also reminded me that I’d watched the first season and a half of Star Trek: Voyager and I’ve now fallen down that hole and will be continuing it and finishing it and writing  up a Nerd Homework (remember those? Remember when I wrote about stuff that wasn’t Disney movies?)

Anyway, if you have CBS All Access, it’s worth checking out the show. Or waiting until it completes and doing a free month and binging the whole thing, which I would definitely recommend over forking over your money for this stupid disappointing platform. (I would like to remind everyone that when I signed up, I didn’t think we’d enter a terrifying pandemic and that I wouldn’t want to even think about, let alone reread and then watch an adaptation of The Stand.)

Magical Movies Tour: Meet The Robinsons

I was so excited to watch Meet The Robinsons again. A movie I saw in movie theaters several times. (I went to the movies a lot in college, and this played for a while.)

There’s just so much that I love wrapped up in this movie. Retro-futurism. Time Travel. Eccentric Wealthy Family Shenanigans. A dinosaur. Conflict Solved Through Compassion. Utter Silliness. Lounge Singing Frogs.

I just love it so much. The animation is still a little wonky, but it’s leaps and bounds better than Chicken Little, and the environments are clever and the characters are distinct and well performed, and there’s no atrocious Spice Girls Covers.

Plus the Bowler Hat Man/Goob is one of the most brilliant comedic villains ever.

I could also quote this movie all day long.

“Everyone will tell you to let it go! DON’T LET IT GO!”

“I have a big head, and little arms. I don’t think this plan was very well thought out, Master.”

“You think I’m crazy, too!”

“Hey Goob, cool binder!” “Want to come over to my house today Goob?” “They all hated me.”

There’s also just a ton of delightful comedic anarchy in this movie and heaping ton of heart. I spend a lot of time thinking about this movie, and how much fun it is and how underrated. Silly doesn’t get enough credit in this world, and it’s a damn shame, because silliness is sublime when applied correctly. (Later this week, we shall dive deeper into this, when I finally get around to writing about my new favorite show, Star Trek: Lower Decks)

And Meet The Robinsons applies that silliness almost perfectly. It also has a classic, almost out of nowhere Disney Scary Scene, where Doris, the evil Bowler hat. (seriously this movie is the best) creates a bowler hat centric apocalypse where humans are slaves to her whims.

Orphaned Lewis and his future son Wilbur Robinson are also delightful kid protagonists, all full of energy and brightness, not whiny or too cool for school, and behave like young teens. (This has become a new hill to die on for me, kids that are written age appropriate. They are often written to old or too young.)

There’s also just the whole retro-future design of the thing, which I don’t know enough about, but I just absolutely love to look at. And there’s the fact that the whole ethos of the movie, “Keep Moving Forward” is an actual Walt Disney quote and the general idea behind Imagineering.

Next time we re-enter a secret animal world with Bolt, which is another new one for me.