Disney. I have always had a serious love hate relationship with this company. Even when I was little. I believe the reason why I get so many mixed feelings towards them is because they send so many mixed messages. I could either be the girl who everyone adores and thinks is pretty beyond compare but then I don’t really have any depth of character and am constantly being saved or I could be the girl that’s more independent and takes care of herself but then I don’t really have any friends and am constantly being given an attitude check.
Now I will be the first to say that children need to have fun. They need to take this time to be as silly as they want to and explore and learn new things because that is not always an option when you are an adult. The adult world is serious, sometimes too serious and we as adults really need to let them be this giddy and carefree while it’s still allowed. And Disney is fun. Everything from their TV shows to their movies to their theme parks are meant to promote healthy fun and laughter.
The wonderful silliness, as contagious as it can be, only teaches a child so much though. Especially when every gesture portrayed, even a sincere one, on most of their television shows has to end with a funny punch line. I was particularly disappointed with their take on Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity last year which despite anyone’s misconceptions about it being fake or people ‘faking it’ IS a VERY SERIOUS digestive disorder.
Things like that make me think that THEY believe that children can’t handle any serious emotions or think intelligently about how they feel about issues. You know, let’s just don’t teach them to think! Just teach them to laugh at EVERYTHING! As long as we all become famous rock stars in the end right! ???
Do I hate Disney totally? As I said, no. Toy Story, Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, Tangled and The Princess and the Frog are right up there with some of my favourite movies. But while I’m sitting here watching my niece fawn over the ‘cool kids’ on their network I find myself wondering, “what does she see here?”
Is she getting anything out of it? Is she learning anything that can benefit her walk on this earth and make it better while she’s having fun? Because sometimes it’s good to just have silly fun but sometimes you want to experience something beautiful that leaves a light in your soul and makes you want to be a better person after you’ve finished watching it.
And yes, children do have these epiphanies. I did! It made me think of movies that I loved as a child and how it impacted my existence.
A LITTLE PRINCESS
I have never met a woman who has never wanted to be a princess when she was a little girl. Whether she wanted to be one to have total dominance over the world or to marry a handsome prince or to just be rich and pretty and adored by everyone, the reason behind the desire didn’t matter. Being a princess was a very ideal position to see oneself in. But Sarah, my kind, sweet faced Sarah taught us that despite their state in life, all women are still princesses. She lived it.
And what I remember learning from her acutely was the act of charity that many parents fail to teach their children. She showed me that it didn’t matter how much you had or didn’t have, what mattered was giving with a good heart. I watched as Sarah, stripped of all her pretty, rich dresses and toys with little less than the clothes on her back gave something that she truly wanted to someone who needed it more than she did, not thinking of herself but only their need and I was deeply touched by that as a child. It made me want (and I tried) to be that selfless too.
I am not a big gamer but when I do play, my ‘game name’ is always either Haku or Shiro. And many people don’t know that it’s because of Spirited Away. (Now everybody knows! Internet confession!) A momento to one of my favourite childhood movies and beloved main characters. The bath house of the spirit world that they occupied as scary as it was portrayed could not have been more perfect and beautiful to me.
Chihiro was lost in a world she couldn’t fully understand and was mostly scared but still a bit fascinated by it and I found myself sitting on the balcony of the boarding rooms with her in my dreams watching the endless sea created by the rain around it.
But Spirited Away connected deeply with me on more than a level of just wonder. Chihiro was alone and not used to being alone but she found the strength in herself to survive. A strength she never knew she had. It was enough to save herself and the people she loved in an unfamiliar world with unfamiliar rules.
I was never a very cowardly child. I liked to take chances and venture to the unknown, much to my mother’s horror. But there were times when I was scared and felt the magnitude of the world was too big for one little person. Chihiro reminded me that I had a strength deep within me to survive and I never forgot that.
Forget the fact that I loved Christina Ricci in Adams Family and the idea of Casper appearing as a cute boy in the end of the movie to have one last dance before he’s returned to his dead ghostly self again. My pre teen-aged mind was a blur of thrills! But this is not why I loved the movie!
The three stooges ghost concept and the interaction between Casper and Kat were cute, and actually very Disney, and her mother appearing in the end to tell Dad, “You can live on without me. I’m watching over you.” was nostalgic and heart-warming. I mean having your beloved mother and wife as a guardian angel is immensely self assuring. But this was not why I loved this movie!!!
What really stayed with me as a child, after I stopped dancing with my imaginary ghost friend, was the fact that said friend would give up being alive again to help save someone I loved. *multi-swoon* It said to me, that’s what best friends and people who love you do! They sacrifice for your happiness. It made me want a friend like that. It made me want to BE a friend like that. And I saw what people did for me in a whole new light.
I was a reader as a child. That was my thing. I coloured, I drew, I sang at the top of my voice and danced and I read everything I could get my hands on. Hard core! Find me missing and I would be in a tree somewhere reading a book.
Matilda spoke to me. I understood her. Completely. I liked playing with other children but books were my true friends. It was just fascinating to me that entire books could teach you everything and tell you everything about… EVERYTHING. And the stories! How could anyone not get excited about that? It’s almost not fair to add this one because of how much I related to it but there were some new things that I learnt that I hadn’t before.
The power of the mind. I didn’t see my brain as powerful then. If I repeated my lessons enough it stuck. That’s the way it worked. Like a lot of children who saw the movie I tried for a time to move stuff with my mind as well to no avail.
But I soon realized that the point wasn’t to encourage the performing of X-Men feats it was to show what your mind was capable of if you were determined to work at it, like accomplishing your goals for instance or learning those pesky lessons. It was about believing in yourself first and that starts in the mind. I also learned something that meant more to me as I got older. I always remember Miss Honey saying something to Matilda that I would never forget.
You were born into a family that doesn’t always appreciate you, but one day things are going to be very different. – Miss Honey
Now my family was far from the Wormwood’s. They had none of Matilda’s parents evident ignorance and cared and nurtured me but yet there were always times that I felt like I didn’t belong. As the youngest girl among four sisters, I many times felt over shadowed by them. Between the three of them there was nothing I could do that they hadn’t done before. I many times felt under appreciated in my youth by my family but Miss Honey lead me to believe that, “one day” things would be very different. One day I would bare my own distinctive shadow and I held that in my heart.
FLY AWAY HOME
I should say here that all of these shows had wonderful music that I have carried in my memory all these years. Fly Away Home is no different. It also was one of the shows that taught me the most about life when I was a child. Some of the things I came away with.
The death of a loved one isn’t the end of your world. It might feel like it and it will hurt and you won’t like it but you can be happy again.
Apparently I thought I was the only one who couldn’t stand my Dad as a teen because I was surprised that Amy had to put up with this annoyance as well. But it did teach me that I should stop acting as if I was the ONLY one with this problem. Millions of teens felt my pain.
I also learned that not all step mother’s or step girlfriend’s in this case are bad! Can you believe that? Not all of them will try to kill you with a poisoned apple or selfishly leave you behind when they said you could go to the ball even though you’ve finished all your chores like they asked. Some of them can actually be really nice. Again, I blame Disney for this misconception.
I’ve saved many a thirsty bird in my childhood. This movie reaffirmed that we should do whatever is in our power to help take care of our wild animal friends. Even if it means raising them, caring for them, building a fake geese plane and escorting them over a couple states to migrate and blocking a tractor with our bodies to save their migration grounds!
Flying is actually a bit scary and dangerous. Not at all the way Peter Pan led us to believe. But Fly Away Home showed me that it is a lot less scary when you are on a mission and a lot calmer when you got a brood of geese who will follow you anywhere at your back and support waiting for you at the end of the road. In other words, flying is better when you are not alone.
First may I just say that this movie confirmed some things that I already knew as a child and I loved it for that!
There ARE large, talking animals lurking around in the bush somewhere. I have always known this! Those long, deep gashes I saw on the asphalt one morning could very well have been made by a giant tiger. Why doesn’t anyone believe me? Watch Princess Mononoke people! And the forest, the wood, the bush, whatever you call it where you come from does have a spirit! We call it Papa Bois here, they call it the forest spirit over there but it’s the same thing. Do people really not know this?
But what I really learned from this movie though was that evil can literally eat you like worms from the inside out when you harbour hate for others. So walk in love! That demon worm shit was real to my mind and combined with Sabbath school well, I never forgot that. Beautiful movie though but let’s move on!
This movie was the reason why I always fancied myself a lost princess in my youth, except my whole family was lost with me. We were the lost royal family who actually DID get away from Rasputin and were quietly waiting to retake our country to rule. We fit the bill after all. Four girls, one boy, mother and father with the youngest girl being precocious, outspoken and imaginative. *bats eyelashes*
Anastasia was actually the only princess that I ever imagined I was. Of course at that time I didn’t know the recorded history of what actually happened to her and her family but let me keep dreaming. Anya’s memories of her three older sisters were replaced with the faces of my older sisters. Her little brother soon looked like mine and the mother and father in her family portrait became mine too.
I wondered what would happen to me if I were to lose my family like she did. If they would be nothing more than ‘figures dancing gracefully across my memory’. The movie really made me think about what that would feel like and how lost someone must feel to not have the support of family around them because despite what passing annoyances I might have had, my family was important to me and it made me feel so sorry for her loss.
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
Does anybody remember how friggin awesome this movie was? And it was so sad. How do you even manage that though? Being incredible and heart wrenching at the same time? It was such a beautiful movie artistically and like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke (okay, Studio Ghibli productions in general!) that was what really drew me to it at first.
For the aesthetic of the world you live in when you die to be directly affected by something that made you happy or affected you deeply when you were alive is such a beautiful and interesting concept. It made me think, really think as a child about life after death. I had thought about it from a biblical perspective but after I saw this show I thought about what heaven would literally LOOK like and I had never really thought about that before.
I was sure that there would be clouds and angels and God and well, me and the people I knew at some point in time, but there was no depth beyond us sitting on clouds and staring serenely down at the world all day. I had never considered not recognising anyone I knew and still being connected to the emotions of those still alive in some way. This movie was one of those things that engaged my philosophical mind and I didn’t even know totally what ‘philosophical’ meant yet.
This was not a Cinderella story. I don’t care if she ends up with the prince in the end or if she had a wicked stepmother or if all that stuff that should have happened in Cinderella did happen. This was NOT the story Cinderella and good luck trying to convince me of that as a child.
Cinderella never stoned the prince with apples for trying to steal her father’s horse. The Cinderella I knew would never have been that aggressive.
Cinderella did not save ANYBODY but mice. She would have never dressed up as a high class lady, marched up to the palace and demanded that ‘her’ servant be set free! Cindy was too reserved for such boldness!
Cinderella would have never punched anyone in the face, even a conniving step sister who deserved it. She would have ran out of the room and cried herself to sleep. That’s what the Cinderella I knew would have done.
She also would not have been trying to get rid of her step mother and step sisters through marriage by the prince so she could have the farm to herself and turn it around? What folly is that?
This is more like the Cinderella I was used to.
I was blown away by this ‘not’ Cinderella and I couldn’t get enough of her. I rummaged through the cable guide looking for every date it would be showing on every channel so I could watch it again and again and AGAIN. I’ve swooned over more women than men in my time and I have listed a few of them here already. Swooning since childhood, yes I have been!
Everything she did I would have done because I never understood why Cinderella didn’t. But this wasn’t Cinderella. This was the story of Danielle de Barbarac and she wasn’t some fairy tale muse that sang all the time about the dreams in her heart (although I loved those songs) then sat and waited for someone to come along and sort out getting her dreams for her.
Danielle went for it. She didn’t wait. She could have been my neighbour, my sister, my mother, my teacher, any ordinary woman I knew who was strong and living her life the best way she knew how *breathe* and who just happened to capture the heart of a prince along the way. She could have been me.
An interesting note which I didn’t realise as a child was that none of these movies were Disney classics. I’m not mocking Disney though but it goes to show that at that point they were seriously lacking in a dimension that children did need. Which were stories that didn’t just illicit basic emotions like happiness or sadness. Children also need stories that make them think. (Edited to add one more because she deserves it!) Which brings me to the one Disney classic on my list…
And so continues my love hate relationship with Disney, because I don’t know who worked on Mulan but girl did they get it right!
Do I need to say about why this movie impacted me so much, impacted every little girl who’s ever been denied, pushed aside, laughed at, scolded or plain out ignored over wanting to do something, simply because she was a girl? And without ‘people’ even considering if she could do it or allowing her to try first.
I’m sure if we are all honest with ourselves and even if it was for a fleeting moment as a child we can remember in our frustration over it all, JUST ONCE, that we wished we were a boy. So they wouldn’t say NO! Because apparently being a girl was the ONLY thing holding us back!
But Mulan broke those rules. She broke it so hard she did something no one, not even herself expected. She saved China! All because she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from saving her father and if it meant pretending to be a man to do that, then that’s what she would have to do.
And what a ‘man’ she turned out to be. She passed all their tests, took all their teasing and rebukes. She worked as hard as any man there and refused to give up and in the end she saved them all. A destiny that had she known from the moment she stole her father’s armour and horse and cut her hair had been written out for her, she might not have believed.
Later I recognised the irony of the song, “Be A Man” and realised the overall question that begged to be answered, that without the gender limitations set on us what could we all accomplish? That’s what I learned from Mulan, and Disney needs to make more fun think-ing shows like this. All the time.
I can think of others but I’ll end it here. So, what I will do is what I have been doing. I’ll let my niece watch her shows and invite her to watch my stuff as well. She’s already watched several of the movies on this list and she has declared that my movies are better than hers. Boom! Maybe because she sees what I see. Here’s to hoping that she does and it impacts her the way it did me.
– Written by Travesaou
Copyright © 2010-2015 Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved