Cerebrus was never meant to be screencapped

Picture yourself trying to write about cool things, needing a still image or two from Disney’s quite frankly AMAZING(ly awful but still AMAZING) Hercules, heading over to disney screencaps dot com which is now animation screencaps dot com, and finding this.

This brief snippet of Cerebrus fighting himself over a steak is always a favourite of mine whenever I watch Hercules and it looks so fluid and cool animated but stilled it’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

Animation is cool.

So is Hercules, which does this a lot, really.

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The Polar Expressay

Anecdote time.

A few years ago, my younger cousin was beginning to doubt, so one day, finally, he went to his mother for reassurance.

“Mom? Do you believe in Santa?”

This is a tough situation because, first of all, the kid has trusted you with one of his innermost fears, a sneaking doubt that he wishes would just evaporate, a sneaking doubt that he never used to experience when he was younger. Now you have to answer properly because this is a big deal question and it has taken a lot of courage for him to trust you with it.

Next, it’s hard because he’s at the age where it’s too early to just rip the band-aid off and admit the truth, but at the same time, he’s too old for a bald-faced lie because he’s going to remember asking this question and that you bald-face lied and he won’t trust you ever again.

So what do you do?

My aunt, thinking quickly (and amazingly), said, “… I believe… in the… spirit… of Santa.”

And he nodded sagely and said, “Yeah, I believe in the spirit of Santa too.”


Belief is a pretty big deal this time of year – not necessarily in Santa, or even in the religious aspects. I always try to believe in the spirit of the season, and the importance of family and friends, or whatever. The inherent gentleness inside all of us. The potential for peace. That stuff is what all of the songs are about, anyway.

This year I’m in a bit of a funk. It’s not down to any one thing, but these days it seems like it’s a little difficult to believe in all of that in general. Due to that, I wanted to look at the Christmas animated movie that is entirely about belief, but that also leaves me with too many questions to be comfortable.

If you want to be an awful cynic about it, you can do a surface reading of The Polar Express (the movie, anyway – I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if or how it differs) that goes like this:

  • The Pol Ex tells kids it’s a buzzkill to be skeptical
  • No, really. Main Boy is always questioning Main Girl and it’s depicted as if Main Boy is a huge buzzkill and Main Girl is always right anyway and all his questioning does is make her doubt herself, but what if she one day is wrong? Is she really not supposed to listen to criticism or “sober second judgement” ever? So when her ticket says “LEAD” at the end, what, is she supposed to be a dictator?
  • Billy is told to just buy into Christmas™ because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t matter what his lived experiences are
  • Billy is told to trust some elves and a magical gift dude who has never given him a present before because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t matter what his lived experiences are, and also, all of those previous Christmases that didn’t work out were… his fault?
  • There’s a ghost on this train
  • No, really, there’s a ghost and he’s extremely creepy, and there’s also a room full of terrifying marionettes and the ghost makes one of Scrooge move and yell existentially terrifying things at Main Boy for kicks
  • There are so many potentially child-murdering fuckups on this magical journey, and the conductor, engineers, and all of the elves should get fired

But I’m not an awful cynic. All of the “don’t be skeptical” messaging that seems to be going on is rather undercut by Fourth, Arrogant Kid’s entire existence. It’s not that you shouldn’t be skeptical or curious or even self-conscious and doubtful – all of those are essential things. It’s just that there are times, such as when you’re about to die for the fifth time in a row on this bullshit train journey, that you need to kind of just trust yourself. And your friends. And, I guess, God, or something. Whatever your guiding light is. And on Christmas Eve at 5 minutes to midnight, your guiding light is “The Spirit of Christmas.”

Billy’s subplot is strange, though. If you’ve got nothing productive to say about poverty or neglect or whatever is going on with Billy, then, um, maybe don’t include it and give it a simplistic magical solution.

As for the ghost and the terrifying stuff, I really like it. I find it quite comforting, actually. Whenever the ghost shows up I feel inexplicably safe (yes, even when he’s marionetting Scrooge). It’s likely because the ghost’s entire existence is to mock the kid for being skeptical. Sometimes skepticism needs to be mocked (because you’re being a dick, Declan), and the times to mock skepticicm are basically Christmas time.

I also like all of the almost-death because it’s fun to watch, so sue me. I’m not a fan of “In the real world these people would be so fired” criticisms in general because, first of all, duh, this is a movie, if you meant to watch real life for an hour and a half you took a wrong turn somewhere, and second of all, IDK, have you seen the White House lately aidhfjsdnkandcka

But here’s some less awful cynical critique.

The culmination of Main Boy’s doubt vs belief conflict has him turn away from struggling to see Santa behind columns of elves, and turn away from reindeer anxiously trying to fly while their bells jingle absolutely silently, and close his eyes. “OK. OK. I believe. I… believe…”

It’d be a pretty shallow movie if just seeing Santa confirmed Santa’s existence. It’d be pretty shallow too if the sound of the sleigh bells is what did it. But no, it’s neither of those things. Main Boy can’t hear the bell until he lets himself believe, tells himself he believes, insists that he believes. It’s more about the fear of believing in something in case it turns out to not be true, or if it turns out to not be all you imagined, and you get hurt.

The sound of the bell becomes concrete evidence of Main Boy’s belief, instead of being concrete evidence of the existence of Santa and all of the magic around him. This is all well and good, because although concrete evidence of the magic is what Main Boy has been looking for this whole time, finding that evidence can’t possibly give him what he needs. The problem is, once you prove something with concrete evidence, you can’t really believe it anymore, not truthfully, because then it’s just a fact. “The Spirit of Christmas” is something you believe in, not something you prove.

What I don’t like about the sound of the bell is what’s said about it at the very end of the movie. Main Boy, having grown up into Tom Hanks (like everyone else in this universe), talks about how his friends and even his sister all one by one found that a year finally came around when they could no longer hear the sound of the bell, but Main Boy always could. That’s the part that just doesn’t work for me, because if it’s supposed to be a point about kids having a specific way of believing as opposed to adults, then Main Boy Who is Now Tom Hanks should really not be able to hear it as an adult. And if instead it’s supposed to be about how the Polar Express experience itself was a lasting thing that ensured he would always be a little bit more childlike and believey than everyone else, I’m not a fan of that either, because that’s weird, and the train almost fell through ice and went down a roller coaster, and, I don’t know, it just doesn’t work for me.

Maybe they just didn’t know how to end it otherwise, so they went with, “Our parents couldn’t hear it but we could but then all the other kids grew up and couldn’t and while I grew up into Tom Hanks I still could, TA-DAAAA.”

(that has nothing whatsoever to do with this, nothing at all, but I can’t even think the “word” “ta-da” without thinking about this so)

I’d rather think about the duality of what’s strictly, factually real here, and what’s not but still kind of is. All of that junk is firmly on my playlist: magical realism, Life of Pi, etc. When Main Boy wakes up on Christmas morning, he rips his pocket, even though at 5 to midnight the night before he already ripped his pocket as he made his way outside to see the train. There’s some concrete evidence that the polar experience was a dream.

But then his sister finds the bell wrapped under the tree, with a note from Santa referencing that he lost it the previous night.

Two pieces of evidence, proving two different and conflicting realities.

Their mom comes over and asks what he’s got, and asks who it’s from.

“Santa!” they tell her, and her “Santa, really?” answer sounds really skeptical. I don’t know how it’s possible to instruct an actress to read that short little line and somehow convey that she knows Santa isn’t real while humouring her kids and being a little bit confused but not overly worried about it, but, they did it. Or maybe I’m just reading that into it, but it really does sound like she’s doing double duty there.

And if she doesn’t believe in Santa, and if it’s her and her husband who are putting the gifts under the tree and pretending they’re from Santa, and if the bell is not from her and her husband, then Santa is both real and not real in this universe, which is… interesting.

Belief is a tricky little abstract concept. The duality of “Santa is real!” and “But he’s not, actually!” and then again “But he still kind of is, ultimately!” is interesting but it doesn’t have much to contribute on the subject. It probably comes back to the important climactic moment where Main Boy decides to believe. Deciding to believe in something is big, important, crucial, but in this movie, it also happens right before Main Boy sees Santa up close and actually talks to him. Metaphorically it’s nice I guess; it grants catharsis. But choosing to believe in something, even if it’s “The Spirit of Christmas,” is not a thing that you do one time and then that’s it, you’re set. Faith gets shaken. Time moves on, you get older, you lose people, unexplained things happen in “free and fair” elections, and it takes near-constant work to remain believey, no matter what it is you happen to choose to believe in.

I’m of two minds, fittingly. I like that The Polar Express illustrates belief the way that it does, but I also think its conclusion is a little too simplistic for the big concepts it’s trying to discuss. It’s why I prefer A Christmas Carol and Arthur Christmas – both of those have pretty simplistic ideas at their hearts. A Christmas Carol meshes generosity of spirit (and wealth) with the Christmas season, and Arthur Christmas is about doing your job for the right reasons and very much masculinity all day with the masculinity oh my God it’s entirely about masculinity. Simple ideas expanded with detailed stories and characters. Pol Ex is more about simple characters grappling with big ideas, and, maybe it’s just me, but I like the “simple ideas, complex characters/exploration” type better. They seem neater, cleaner, and ultimately more satisfying.

But there’s really nothing like the train materializing out of the mist.

The Essential Halloween Accessory

is a savvy, scrawny, old, torn-eared black cat.

I wanted to write a whole thing about this animated cat to end all animated cats and how he’s like the Cheshire Cat if the Cheshire Cat had been on Alice’s side but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without just stating facts.

Instead, here are some of my favourite caps of the Coraline cat. They’re from Disney Screencaps once again, the site which, apparently, doesn’t stop at Disney.

coraline catcoraline cat 2coraline cat 3coraline cat 4coraline cat 5coraline cat 6cat can talkcat is a bastion of wisdomi've seen that lookmy cat would never do thatcoraline cat 7

Get you a cat in case of other-dimension monsters with nefarious intentions for your eyes.

30 Days of Avatar: Toph, Never Change

Finishing the week off with a bang, like the bang of a burning boulder landing inches from your foot after a cry of, “I AM NOT TOPH! I AM MELON LORD! MUAH HA HA HA!” is our appreciation of Toph Beifong, the greatest earth bender in the world.

Week 1: Friends of the Avatar

Day 1: Katara
Day 2: Sokka, Bolin, and Mako
Day 3: Toph

Day 3 is for Toph being unmovable, like a rock.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

toph

We’ve said before (and we’ll say again) that we love watching women go on power trips. Toph is the ultimate woman on a power trip. Always on a power trip, all the time.

(^^^ a nice compilation to that effect)

You might assume that Toph was a spirited kid who eventually had to grow out of her in-your-face personality. Right?

Wrong.

(^^^ have we perfected the astral plane marriage thing so that we can each marry this 2D animated old lady yet or what)

(OK maybe one of us can marry the elbow leech)

In the cameo-to-end-all-cameos, Toph shows up in Korra as a very grumpy, very irresponsible, very talented old woman living in a swamp because obviously she would live in a mystical swamp by herself. She has literally not changed even a little bit, despite having a couple of kids and starting a metal bending academy/police force.

Her version of motherly affection? How about this speech to Lin in “Operation Beifong:” “Look, I know I wasn’t a great mother, but one way or another, I ended up with two great kids. Good enough to risk my bony old butt for, anyway. If you can just find some way not to hate me, maybe that’s enough, at least for me.”

This was a bold move for the writers of Avatar (but… no one should be surprised by that). Allowing your female character to be perpetually brash and angry and not-nurturing and basically the antithesis of rigid femininity is something that we don’t get to see very often, especially in a protagonist role. Or in any role.

Never change, Toph.

toph su and lin

30 Days of Avatar Day 1: Katara, Pseudonym MVP

Our love for Avatar knows no bounds, so we’re spending 30 days celebrating various aspects of both shows because why not?

*If you haven’t seen The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra yet, well, please do yourself a favour and get on that. We will be talking about majorly spoilery things (not in this one, but sooner or later we will), and it would be a shame if glancing at one of our posts got in the way of your perfect enjoyment of watching some of the greatest television ever. Ever. EVER. We do not exaggerate. You need to watch this show. Once you do, you won’t even understand how you got by as a person who’d never watched Avatar before. It happened to both of us, it will happen to you. Go forth and live your best life.*

With all of that said, here’s the first of our 30 days’ worth of Avatar love.

Week 1: Friends of the Avatar

Day 1: Katara
Day 2: Sokka, Bolin, and Mako
Day 3: Toph

Day 1: we start a bit small with Katara’s magical ability to sell whatever stupid fake name her compatriots come up with in the moment.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

In Book One, while Katara’s water bending is still nothing special, her major skill of making obviously fake names seem believable is already fully developed.

In “The King of Omashu,” Aang gets carried away because he’s disguised as an old man using Appa’s shed fur and comes up with an elaborate pseudonym.

“Name’s Bonzu… Pippin…paddleopsicopolis… the third!”

Now this surly guard would surely have turned the Gaang away if not for Katara stepping up immediately with a most natural, “Hi. June Pippinpaddleopsicopolis.”

The guard says, (more or less), “Well that sells that. Enjoy Omashu.”

In “City of Walls and Secrets,” Katara gets to make up pseudonyms of her own for herself and Toph when Long Feng of the Dai Lee won’t leave them alone. She comes up with “Kwa Mai” for herself and “Dum” for Toph, and apart from getting her hair pulled by an irritable Toph, she’s pretty much sold it.

If Aang or Sokka had been around to make up the names Long Feng would definitely have ended the game much sooner than he did – although we’re sure he knew from the start who these two ladies really were. You can’t pull one over on Long Feng… unless you’re Azula.

Still, Katara made it easier for him to play along, because Long Feng just couldn’t stomach a “Bonzu Pippinpaddleopsicopolis the third.”

Finally Katara once again is called upon to wow us with her acting skills in Book Three’s, “The Headband.” She and Sokka pose as Aang’s concerned and disappointed parents when he enrolls in a Fire Nation school and accidentally beats up a bully using diversionary air bending techniques (as you do).

By now you’d think they’d have learned to let Katara take the lead but Sokka’s having so much fun that he SUPER GLUED THE BEARD AND MUSTACHE TO HIS FACE.

The Headmaster says, “Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs…?”

Sokka: “Fire. Wang Fire. This is my wife, Sapphire.”

And without missing a beat, Katara says, “Sapphire Fire. Nice to meet you.”

The Headmaster seems a little annoyed by their last name but up against Katara’s amazing “selling the stupid fake names” skills, he doesn’t stand a chance.

So apparently some excellent people have created transcripts of the episodes online which proved very useful for this post. Here is the one for “The Headband” but simply google the word “transcript” and any episode title you like and the information is at your perfectionist fingertips! Thanks, excellent people at the Avatar Wiki!

 

Disney Work Part 2

Here are some more mundane tasks that Disney movies jazz up.

*Disclaimer: I went through YouTube to find all of these clips I wanted to talk about, but at some point, some of these videos may be removed abruptly from YouTube because, well, Disney. Posting straight clips like this doesn’t count as fair use because they aren’t transformative… but they’re so short I personally doubt that they cause any financial harm to the behemoth that is Disney. But. Copyright law is important. 

Anyway, if one of these is missing but my hilarious descriptions of what goes on make you want to watch that clip RIGHT NOW just search YouTube. Someone will probably have reuploaded it by then. Or, if you’re like me, you already have access to all of these on DVD or Bluray or something, so hakuna matata.*

Cleaning outdoors/drawing water/being rudely interrupted

It’s always nice to take a break from cleaning to talk to woodland critters and daydream a bit. Even better, I think, if it’s outside and there’s a well involved. On the other hand, when some jerk comes up suddenly behind you that’s a bit less stellar.

In real life this would suck. Large. But hey, good for Snow I guess. It’s what she said she wanted, after all.

Cleaning the floor

Snow and Cinderella could stand to invest in a mop.

But also, this scene is fabulous. And it’s cool how Lucifer ties it all together as he does. There is nothing more magical than a cat ruining your clean floor – because at least it’s not a dog. Dogs are worse.

“Doing your chores” while finding time to “study”

Dogs are worse.

Little Brother may be one of the top three Disney dogs. Also, Mulan’s a genius for saving time by cheating and by tying chicken feed to her dog. Although she still ended up late. But hey, she’d be much later if she had actually studied thoroughly enough to not need her notes, and if she’d carefully fed the chickens herself.

Dig dig dig dig dig dig digging in a mine the whole day through/commuting

Mining is awful. Don’t ask how I’d know, because I don’t. But I’m assuming it’s awful. It’s probably not as glittery as this. Also walking to and from work is less than ideal.

Street performance

It’s rough being a street performer. Don’t ask how I’d know, because I don’t. But I’m assuming it’s rough. Here, it’s not as though Esmeralda has it easy, but on the other hand, until the stupid guards show up and apart from the occasional glimpse of hereditary bigotry, it seems like it’s going OK. Except maybe don’t have Djali be the one in charge of carrying the money.

Washing someone else’s stupid dishes

This is a better method. Why we don’t all just do it this way is beyond me.

Also the way Merlin says, “Rubbity scrubbity sweepity, flow,” makes me laugh. I think he’s a little too into it.

“Gathering corn”

The magic here is in having a friend that doesn’t drop you when you a) only pick one thing of corn, and b) didn’t tell her about the invader you met and befriended the other day so that she’s stunned when he shows up and you run off with him like it’s nothing and ask her not to do anything about it. Please.

Cleaning someone else’s ridiculous mess

This is a little too much fun to truly be a parody of Snow White at the dwarves’ house. It’s more of an updated version that acknowledges its relentless cheeriness but doesn’t apologize for it.

I know I’m a little out there with my lack of hatred for cockroaches but still, I’d be thrilled if a cockroach/pigeon/rat team showed up to help with the housework.

Cooking

Remy loves cooking but I’d prefer if the food would just magically appear on dishes that would magically clean themselves afterwards. But this, and all of the other Remy-cooks-something scenes, make me appreciate the actual act of cooking.

Still. If Remy wants to invade my kitchen and become my personal chef, that’s more than fine with me.

Making gumbo

Princess and the Frog focuses less on food preparation than does Ratatouille, but it still makes cooking seem magical and not tedious by highlighting the “good food brings people together” thing that Tiana is obsessed with as an adult without quite understanding what it means to her now that she’s grown.

Making gumbo as a frog in a swamp

Cooking is annoying enough as a human with opposable thumbs and… appliances, and stuff. But again, the movie shows it as being something that connects people, even if Tiana’s the one doing all of the hard work, like figuring out how to heat a pumpkin. In the middle of a swamp. As a frog.

Being forced to appreciate art

This is a bit much. They’re kittens.

Indulging in every hobby

Even though Rapunzel is just feverishly trying to give her life meaning, I admire her daily productivity and aspire to it. An achievable goal, if ever there was one.

Indulging in your hobby with just a dash of self-loathing on the side

“No face as hideous as my face was ever meant for heaven’s light.” Aw, come on, Quasi.

The whittling of the Esmeralda figure is the best thing. And it’s much better than the smoke version of her that Frollo conjures up, because Frollo is and will always be the worst.

Indulging in your totally normal, not concerning at all hobby

Lady.

Why can’t you make skiving snackboxes or something.

Disney Work

Here’s a handy but incomplete list of mundane tasks that a Disney movie makes look like magic.

*Disclaimer: I went through YouTube to find all of these clips I wanted to talk about, but at some point, some of these videos may be removed abruptly from YouTube because, well, Disney. Posting straight clips like this doesn’t count as fair use because they aren’t transformative… but they’re so short I personally doubt that they cause any financial harm to the behemoth that is Disney. But. Copyright law is important. 

Anyway, if one of these is missing but my hilarious descriptions of what goes on make you want to watch that clip RIGHT NOW just search YouTube. Someone will probably have reuploaded it by then. Or, if you’re like me, you already have access to all of these on DVD or Bluray or something, so hakuna matata.*

Getting up in the morning

The upside of dying in your sleep is that you never have to get up in the morning ever again. Getting up is terrible. Everything you have to do during this new day has yet to be done. Some days, the worst part about getting up is that you have to do all of the things and can’t sleep again until they’re all done, but some days are much worse. Sometimes you wake up to a cat violently vomiting – but at least she’s vomiting off the side of the bed, so whatever. Just don’t step in it, I guess. Sometimes you wake up to a giant centipede crawling up your wall. Sometimes you wake up and you were supposed to be at work ten minutes ago. It’s great.

Cinderella just deals with it. The various clothed animals help, I guess. None of them are vomiting. My goal in life is to be as chill about having to get up as she is. She’s just a tad disgruntled and sort of tells off a clock. I’ll get there someday.

Baking

I like pie but making pie is terrible. The crust is finicky. The filling is sometimes a soup. If you want lemon meringue but you’re a vegan you need to open a can of chickpeas and whip up the slop they come in for upwards of ten minutes and it’s weird. If you want tourtierre but you haven’t eaten pork in ten years you also need chickpeas, and some mushrooms. There are too many steps and too many dishes to wash and all of the counter space gets covered in flour.

But this little scene is awesome. To be as serene as this while making pie? Snow White must be a saint.

Packing

Why can’t it be this simple?

Also, Higitus Figitus and Madam Mim are the only reasons for this movie to exist.

Cleaning up someone else’s ridiculous mess

This may be the highlight for a scene that makes cleaning look like fun.

Hunting/Gathering

Well. Maybe everyone’s in a good mood just because the warriors have returned. But still.

Being trained on a new job

Being a new hire sucks. Colette’s training style would not help. However, as time goes on and as both Linguini and Remy listen and learn from her, she gets friendlier. She just needed to be sure that she would be treated with the respect she deserves.

Working two jobs

Plain and simple: when she falls into bed only to have the alarm go off seconds later? That is my nightmare.

Tiana’s life looks busy. Stimulating, enjoyable much of the time, but also miserable in a few significant ways. This scene manages to show the mix.

Working out

Working out is stupid. But there’s something quite satisfying about watching Herc pick up that giant arm statue by the fingertip.

Working out

… working out is very manly, and… tough.

Seriously though, this is my favourite progression scene. The Hercules one is also a lot of fun, and the Ratatouille one is great in a subtler way. Maybe it’s easy to make hard work look great when you can also show the results.

Poisoning your elderly employer’s cats

This… is my favourite part? He’s awful and all, but that dish looks so good. Even if all it is is cream, various spices, and way too many sleeping pills.

Triple Feature: Exploitation in Trolls, Pinocchio, and The Lego Movie

I went out to buy Trolls on DVD and came home with The Lego Movie and Pinocchio as well, so I figured, why not get a blog post out of what was probably a stupid financial decision on my part?

My second favourite thing about Trolls was the exploitation stuff, and I’m pretty sure that’s a common thread in Lego for sure, and I seem to recall donkeys in Pinocchio so sure, let’s go with exploitation as a topic and examine how each of these three otherwise unrelated movies handle it.

(spoilers)

Trolls

Everyone knows that Bergens are unable to feel happiness unless they eat a Troll. This statement of absolute fact is repeated often by Chef, who obviously has a lot riding on all of the Bergens believing it, but the Trolls believe this too. Poppy’s history lesson includes the claim that Bergens don’t sing, don’t dance, and don’t hug. We see them not hugging, sure, but we also see them trudging along to the beat of a song they’re most definitely singing. A deleted scene shows Chef singing a villain song. And Bridget, without prompting from the Trolls, sings Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” about King Gristle. And with just a bit of encouragement at the end, the Bergens start dancing.

It doesn’t take long, once Poppy and Branch reach Bergen Town, for Poppy to realize that Bergens can be happy without eating Trolls, despite the fact that she’s grown up believing that to be impossible. Although Branch insists that “Bergens don’t have feelings,” Poppy, having witnessed Bridget be sad about King Gristle not noticing her existence, begins to realize that they don’t know everything about their enemies. Poppy decides to form a partnership with Bridget rather than running around screaming trying to get away from her.

When it’s time for the trolls to move on and save Creek, Bridget despairs because she’s certain that she needs the trolls to be “Lady Glitter Sparkles” and keep King Gristle’s attention. But later, as the Trolls are regaining their own happiness and hope, Bridget decides to set them free and suffer the consequences which at this point are a lot worse than Gristle realizing that she’s a scullery maid. She and her Troll friends have progressed from having very, very conflicting interests, to a mutually beneficial hairdo-based deception scheme, and finally to a point where Bridget will risk her life for them, and where Poppy will return the favour.

This scenario probably couldn’t work in this movie, but indulge me: if the Trolls hadn’t been able to regain happiness before the feast, maybe the happiness Bergens gain from eating them wouldn’t be possible. If this movie had decided that Branch’s approach to life was better than Poppy’s, for example, this very thing may have been his strategy. “Let’s all be sad so that we don’t actually make them happy when they eat us. Wooot,” he would say, I guess. But again, I don’t know what kind of movie that would be. What we have instead is that they feel better, and Bridget, because of empathy, releases them.

It’s Poppy and her friends’ empathy at the end that allow Bergens to find their happiness. Poppy says, “She deserves to be happy. They all do.” So the dream team go back and put themselves in danger to explain how to be happy to the Bergens. Empathy is held up at the end as the true way to give someone else happiness rather than someone exploiting someone more vulnerable to attain it at their expense.

Pinocchio

All right, Pinocchio. I haven’t seen this in at least a decade and a half, and I’m nervous. Mostly I’m nervous because I remember not being a fan, but I’m also worried that it’ll have nothing to do with exploitation. So I’m going to watch it and record all of what will surely be my astute and useful reactions as I’m watching.

It’s 12:00 am. Why am I doing this at this time this was a stupid idea.

12:01 am and I guess I’ll admit one of my shortcomings as a human being: being easily bored by long opening credits. I’m glad they don’t do this anymore.

12:04: Jiminy Cricket doesn’t look much like a cricket. Missing a couple of legs and some wings, he is. Also he’s breaking and entering.

12:06: Figaro just showed up. And I guess that isn’t the worst Italian accent I’ve ever heard on Geppetto.

12:09: I’d completely forgotten about that fish.

12:10: Geppetto is using his puppet to harass Figaro. What.

12:15: Figaro is the true hero of this movie and I feel bad for him.

pin2

12:18: Jiminy, you’re a cricket. She’s a… fairy.

12:22: I don’t want to be cynical but I kind of think he’s been set up for failure. He just has to be of impeccable character, that’s all, no big deal.

pin11

12:26: WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING RIGHT NOW

pin1

12:30: cue the furries. Why do they care about a wooden boy, don’t they have Zootopia fanart to draw or something?

12:32: OK so temptation number one: fame, offered by greedy exploitish anthropomorphic animals.

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12:36: oh good, racism. Bring back the furries.

12:48: Pinocchio and Jiminy are pretty sure this situation is their own faults. Nope, guys. And if the Blue Fairy gives him crap I’m concluding that she’s the enchantress from Beauty and the Beast.

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12:51: she’s that enchantress. The Beast was 11 when she overreacted at him too, so, lady. Surely you could be testing someone more deserving of your moralistic scrutiny than little kids.

12:53: oh no, the donkey thing is happening isn’t it. And the furries are horrified. Rightly so. But apparently they’re still going to help this horrific stuff happen, so, cool.

12:56: the second temptation is vacation. I would lose on this one.

12:57: I DON’T LIKE THIS.

1:02: I didn’t realize that playing pool was such a bad thing.

1:03: this cricket is useless. And there’s a lot of foreshadowing happening and I reeeeeally don’t like it.

1:04: NOPE.

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1:06: I can’t express how much I hate this right now.

1:09: … what? A… what? But. What?

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1:14: I’m still confused. How did Geppetto mess up searching for Pinocchio so badly that he ended up in a whale.

1:15: is he feeding fish to his fish. This guy is a mess.

1:17: that’s a nice reunion amongst dying fish. Very sweet.

1:23: I guess the third temptation is surviving. Cool. And where are Cleo and Figaro during all of this?

1:24: oh there they are.

1:25: suck it, Blue Fairy.

1:26: nooo not the clocks again.

1:28: and it’s over. Wow.

Good, there was exploitation. Mainly of vulnerable children. I could go back and forth for a while about whether the movie is really suggesting that Pinocchio and the other boys that ended up as donkeys sold into slavery deserve to be exploited as they are, but I think instead I’ll invoke the Rule of Red Riding Hood. Which is, and I quote:

“From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!”

Perrault can go jump in a lake.

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Pinocchio manages to escape the donkey fate by jumping off a cliff. Jumping off a cliff may have metaphorical significance, I guess, but to me it doesn’t signify Pinocchio learning his lesson about trusting anthropomorphic foxes or wanting to live a carefree life filled with smoking, drinking, playing pool (the… horror… or maybe that was the joke, I’m honestly not sure), property destruction, and no school. He just realizes he’s been had and his conscience, rather than making him feel bad about the decisions he’s made that have led him to this moment, just points him to the exit. This is an interesting way to write a moral, I suppose, in that there isn’t one at all. But then Pinocchio needs to be willing to and actually die to save Geppetto before the Blue Fairy grants him “real boy” status, proving that he’s better than all of those other boys and is truly deserving of life.

Compare this to Trolls: first of all, in Pinocchio’s shoes Poppy would certainly have gone back to save all the other kids, since she is willing to do so for all of the Bergens, even the ones she doesn’t know personally. Not that I’m suggesting that Pinocchio was capable of that, but man, tell the polizia. Or the fairy. Or something.

Now if we were to apply the Rule of Riding Hood to Trolls, then Branch would have to be the main character. The fact that he warned Poppy about the loud party would be even more highlighted than it was. She’d have to learn some sort of painful lesson and become a completely different character. He probably would come up with that plan I mentioned earlier in which the Trolls all give up happiness so that they can’t be exploited. Don’t talk to strangers if you don’t want them to “eat” you, after all. If you have something someone wants to exploit, best get rid of it.

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Happily we don’t live in the world in which the movie takes Branch’s extreme side. Instead, there’s a couple of instances where “I guess we were both right” is the lesson they learn. And when Poppy does revert to Branch’s early-on-in-the-movie way of looking at the world, Branch is the one to convince her not to give hope. The Trolls don’t escape exploitation by jumping off the exit cliff, but rather by learning things, and by their extreme, all-encompassing empathy.

And the Blue Fairy really can suck it. So Pinocchio decided to skip school twice. BFD. Can’t she pick on Stromboli or that creep luring kids to “Pleasure Island” and then turning them into donkeys and selling them into slavery for her moralistic lectures about lying I MEAN GET SOME PERSPECTIVE LADY.

The Lego Movie

Lord Business is rounding up master builders and trapping them in his think tank so that they’ll come up with the brilliant instructions for all of the settings in his various realms. He’s doing this because the bizarre creations of master builders and world-mixing were confusing him. He wants his stuff to be exactly. The way. He wants it.

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Now really he’s just The Man Upstairs, Finn’s dad. And he wants to build all of his Lego sets as they are in the instructions and then glue them down so that his kids can’t move them around. Lord Business’s think tank full of such geniuses as Gandalf, Wonder Woman, Shaquille O’Neal, and Cleopatra is just Finn’s active imagination’s version of events.

The exploitation of the think tank happens because Lord Business is stubborn about how the world has to be. There aren’t infinite possibilities in his mind. Everyone needs to stand still in their own realms and stay frozen forever. Finn’s dad has decided that his Lego isn’t a toy because he’s building and gluing and now it’s become a grown-up thing. But when he sees some of Finn’s creations, he changes his mind about the crazy glue and plays with his son, building strange creations and letting Lego guys and girls who wouldn’t normally interact interact. Eventually, even his daughter is allowed to join.

Dun dun duuuuuuun.

The Lego Movie reminds me of Trolls in that all of the bad stuff happens because everyone (in Trolls) or just the one guy in charge of everything (in The Lego Movie) is working under the assumption that there is only one way to do something. For the Bergens, it’s eating Trolls to achieve happiness. For dad/Lord Business, it’s gluing everyone down so that nothing moves and gets weird. But the innocence and resilience of Poppy and Finn/Emmett convince everyone to try a less exploitative, less gluey approach, and it works out better for everyone.

Welp. That was certainly a way to spend two days.

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SPACESHIIIIIIIIP!!!!!!!

Animated Animals: The Reptile Muscle

Guess it’s Disney Day again.

I’m trying to write a thing about portrayals of animals and nature in animated films – specifically Finding Nemo and The Lion King – since Andrew Stanton gave that interview saying his reaction to the “circle of life” philosophy in Le Roi Lion was a major influence to how nature is portrayed in Trouver Nemo. I keep getting stuck, mostly because how I feel about those portrayals is tied up in how I feel about how society perceives nature in general and then I go off on huge barely-related tangents about humpback whales and I think it’s going to turn into a massive manifesto.

So for now I wrote this thing about Louis and Pascal and how they do somewhat unethical things so that their princesses can achieve their dreams without moral ensulliment. Mmhm.


Recent Disney princesses have occasionally relied on reptilian enforcement for maximum dream achievement. Let’s discuss.

Louis is the definition of non-threatening. He shows up right after truly threatening gators attack our frog heroes, but all he wants is to play his trumpet in accompaniment to Naveen’s spider webbed-branch. Actually, all he wants is to play among the great (and human) jazz musicians on the riverboats. So Louis is both non-threatening and Ariel.

“Oh I tried once.” That part is probably the funniest thing in the movie. Tiana’s “And we talk, too,” is also good, but that’s not the point.

Louis asks Mama Odie to give him a human body so that he can safely jam with the big boys, but she apparently isn’t one for simple, straight-up magical transformation and tells him he just needs to find what he needs. Which ends up simply being that he needs to be friends with some powerful and influential people who own a restaurant by the end of the film, because as we see during the finale, Tiana lets him play for her patrons.

But to get to this point, first we need non-threatening Louis to be a true American Murder Log.

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You’re better off where you’re at.

The Fenner brothers probably weren’t supposed to accept another offer after agreeing to sell to Tiana, but since she hadn’t signed the papers yet it wasn’t technically illegal. I like this because it’s a lot more realistic than having them just be outright evil schemers denying Tiana her dream property. They’re just not good people, even though what they’re doing is within the law.

I mean, the above is clearly a death threat though. I’m fine with it (sometimes you have to force people to not do terrible things), but, it’s a death threat. Damn, Disney.

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Worth it.

I’ve been to Florida many times and I’ve never seen an alligator in the wild. I’m mostly OK with that, because if I happen to meet one and it decides to eat me then I think I’m eaten. But it would be interesting to see one from a safe distance. They are the living dinosaurs, after all (I mean so are birds but we’re not ready as a culture to accept feathered dinosaurs yet so whatever).

I’m grateful for Princess and the Frog’s portrayal of alligators. Louis is genuinely lovable, and gators don’t get enough appreciation, which is a shame. I personally find it hard to appreciate them because they’re dangerous and they eat animals I like better than them, but despite all of that, when I found a lovely shop display of decapitated baby alligator heads in multiple souvenir shops in Florida, I was unimpressed. To say the least. When we allow ourselves to project evil onto an animal just because it’s deadly and doesn’t make cute facial expressions, we end up allowing the worst kinds of exploitation. From the footage I’ve seen, snakes and alligators in the skins industry and sharks in the fin industry are treated with excessive cruelty, and it’s almost as though the people doing it think they’re obligated to harm them with such spite because of how hated they are by random facets of human society.

Anyway that’s depressing, but the point is, I’m always up for a beautiful Disney movie creating a lovable character out of an animal that is hated and misunderstood in real life. Threatening sleazy real estate agents with death and all.

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Now play Dippermouth Blues.

… Pascal commits actual murder.

Trolls: First Thoughts

 

So I saw Trolls at lunchtime on opening day and I liked it.

Disclaimer: there is, as you know if you’ve seen the trailers, a bit of crude humour in it. It’s DreamWorks. But as usual, unless it’s Shrek or something, it doesn’t take over the movie and is clearly just there to make the kids laugh, so whatever.

And maybe spoilers.

Factors that probably influence my liking it:

  1. The trailer looked bad. And therefore, low expectations.
  2. Pretty. VERY pretty.
  3. Fun music. I wasn’t expecting it to be mostly original songs, so that was a nice surprise. There were some covers too and it ended up being a good mix.
  4. It’s a story about happiness being a choice, or something someone can help you find if need be.
  5. It’s a story about choosing not to eat sentient beings.
  6. It’s a story about finding happiness without exploiting others to get it.
  7. Poppy’s version of an I Want song is pretty fun and her character gets eaten multiple times as she’s singing it and even that doesn’t slow her down. (Which is the joke. But still.)
  8. Branch.
  9. Whatever that worm thing is that James Corden’s character is always holding.
  10. Emphasis on, “I don’t think, I hope” and “I don’t think, I feel.” Thinking is great and all but with Inside Out and this, it’s nice to see emotional intelligence or morality or whatever it is being valued in kids’ films.
  11. Sincerity.
  12. Someone at DreamWorks is clearly a hopeless romantic, and it’s cute.

Final Note: DreamWorks maybe needs a new marketing department. Unless this movie is ultra successful, I suppose.

❤ erm

Animated Moments that Broke My Cold Dead Heart

three copyI, three, am what Myers-Briggs define as an INTJ – if you aren’t obsessed with personality quizzes, that means I’m utterly out of touch with my emotions. Things that aren’t logical make me uncomfortable. And in my life I’ve only cried over one book – Anne of Green Gables, upon reread.

But we all know that animated TV and movies have a special way of invading your heart and breaking it from the inside out because animators are evil. So here are some of the moments that never fail to completely obliterate me.

Continue reading “Animated Moments that Broke My Cold Dead Heart”

Princess and the Frog References

For  Disney copy this week we looked at Princess and the Frog’s apparent love for other Disney animated films. We’re sure others have meticulously gone through the movie to find all of the Disney Easter eggs but we decided to challenge ourselves and see how many we could come up with without doing research. You know, for fun!

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Let’s start with the obvious: the evening star that Tiana wishes on as a little girl and later, in cynical desperation at the La Bouff masquerade ball. We know When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinnocchio, and The Second Star to the Right from Peter Pan.

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Well now we know the star is actually Evangeline. And the whole “second star to the right” thing gets a new meaning after the funeral at the end.

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Probably everyone saw this one. Looks like the magic carpet from Aladdin, or more likely, a replica, ended up in New Orleans.

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Maybe this is a stretch but they do look like a weird version of Jasmine and Aladdin. “Jasmine” here even had those huge gold earrings.

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This one was probably not intentional:

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But it made us think of Dumbo. Damn it Disney don’t make us think about Dumbo.

*cries forever*

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But oh look, King Triton must be in a friendly-type mood.

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And Mama Odie reminds us of the Evil Queen here, with her “Gumbo, gumbo, in the pot, we need a Princess. Whatcha got?” rhyme. But she’s more like Ursula, if Ursula had been a good squid person and had used her magic to counsel people rather than manipulate them.

Here we have two upbeat songs that’re mostly our characters getting way ahead of themselves and not really thinking things through. The animation and colour scheme change too to compliment the upbeatness.

Also, this reminds us of something.

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Louis is apparently a Madame Mim fan, and we can’t blame him.

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And then there’s this:

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And just as a sidenote – ALL of Lotte’s toys are royalty? She needs to get a different hobby. And that’s coming from us, who never shut up about Disney movies.

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Brother Bear

Iiiiiit’s  Disney copy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Having watched Ice Age so unnecessarily much lately, we felt it was time to talk about one of the movies in which Disney just hits the nail on the head when it comes to deconstructing masculinity because as we discussedIce Age is pretty much exclusively about men and manages to be really weird about it.

So Brother Bear.

“The story of a boy who became a man… by becoming a bear.”

Yikes, that’s kind of clunky. And it’s the last line in the movie, so, double yikes.

We may as well get a bunch of stuff out of the way before we praise this movie, because it isn’t The Lion King. Which is to say, it has flaws. Continue reading “Brother Bear”

Lingering Questions about Ice Age

Netflix is not working on our blu ray player, and the DVD in the slot is Ice Age. So we’ve watched it 5 times in the past week, and we have some questions.

  1. Why do animals in Ice Age know that they are in an ice age?
  2. Why are they aware of other phenomena such as extinction and evolution?
  3. Why did this movie portray the dodo extinction as being entirely the dodo’s own fault, and, like, thousands of years before European colonialism?
  4. Why is Sid the giant sloth relatively small?
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  5. Shouldn’t Diego be a lot bigger than he and the other sabre tooths are in this movie? (And – shouldn’t he actually be smaller than Sid?)
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But those aren’t the important questions. We have but two of those.

Continue reading “Lingering Questions about Ice Age”

The Swan Princess

This movie is one of the ultimate “what could have been” movies. Like. After a gigantic exposition dump, this is the first real part:

Great, right? I mean, they’d have to build on that a little because the “why” in why they’re suddenly in love needs some plumping up, but otherwise this a great start. Especially because this came out in 1994, the same year as The Lion King, just as chemistry between romantic animated couples was becoming important.

Continue reading “The Swan Princess”