I had a conversation with my cat the other day. It went something like this.
“WHAAT? After all you’ve put me through, you expect me to help you just like that? JUST LIKE THAT?”
For those of you paying attention, yes. I do have a conversational cat. If you ever get a cat, I hope it does the same because it allows to reenact scenes from Lilo & Stitch. But, my sudden urge to reenact a scene from this movie got me thinking.
There is a lot of
rhetoric that surrounds Disney movies from my childhood. There’s this idea that the Disney princess movies were bad for people, portraying scenes of Stockholm syndrome, women thinking they can change a man, the only goal is a man…yada yada had TL:DR (which stands for Too Long: Didn’t Read, by the by).
What still strikes me is that I don’t find those movies to be the ones that followed me into adulthood.
I was probably a weird kid.
To this day, my favorite animated Disney movie was The Sword in the Stone. I wanted to have a talking owl that spoke almost exclusively in back-sass. I loved the music. Another Disney movie that stands out is Bedknobs and Broomsticks. There may have been some attachment to it out of novelty, because we didn’t actually own that one. We had to check it out from the library.
When I reached adulthood, the soccer match and Portobello Road weren’t as interesting as the fact that she’s FIGHTING OFF A NAZI INVASION. Remember that, kids? That’s right. Mrs. Potts is a witch who saved England from Nazis and would have gotten burned at the stake for it.
Another favorite was The Great Mouse Detective. I have found myself quoting things only to question where it was from to discover when I stubbed my toe and started saying, “My foot, my foot, my only foot!” I was quoting the evil bat from that movie.
Lilo & Stitch, The Rescuers, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, The Rocketeer. The closest I had to a favorite Disney princess movie was Robin Hood. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the princess movies. They just weren’t the running down the VHS player.
I guess my question is: where have all the side movies gone?
Do you guys remember Blank Check? Why aren’t there anymore Blank Checks? Or Tall Tales? Or Mighty Ducks?
Everyone remembers Cool Runnings, but what’s the Cool Runnings of the 00’s? Where’s the Homeward Bound of 2010? (Don’t tell me it’s the “Dog’s Purpose” movies unless there’s a talking cat named Sassy) Where’s my Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?
Please, please, please do not read this as me wanting a reboot of these things. I don’t want them to come back. I want them to stay safe where they live in my memory. Sure, there’s a place for a live action Dora the Explorer movie, but I feel like there’s a bigger piece of our culture missing here.
The movies I loved may not have been the most popular movies Disney was making, but they were still making them for people like me. The money they made on the princess movies were enough to fund the weird, quirky, emotionally devastating and still-interesting side projects. And, I DO think most people have stronger memories about Lilo & Stitch than they do some of the other Disney products of the time.
Here’s the thing, Disney:
Star Wars and Marvel have basically given you a blank check (brought it back). Maybe start taking some risks on these kinds of projects again. You never know who’s watching. I hope this is an idea that will be carried out on Disney+.
And, while we’re waiting for a new batch of off-color Disney movies, I encourage you to go back and find some of those gems you may have missed. They’re worth a watch.
Before you think I’m fast and loose about handing out movie recommendations, I only write about movies that I like. I subscribe to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say” doctrine because why waste time on things I don’t like?
That being said, the obvious direction of this post is this: go see Frozen.
If it’s humanly possible, drop what you’re doing and go see it right now.
Honestly, I’m not kidding. Get up. Buy a ticket. Get to the theater. See this movie.
The rest of this post is spoilers.
For example, Glee followed up a stellar first season with a lackluster second that lost at least one viewer (me). Even one of my favorites, Fringe, stumbled starting from the second season block, abandoning its direction to maneuver back on a strong course, and why not?
After the first season, you’ve hit your stride. You’ve told a story. You’ve come to a conclusion. More than starting the first time, starting all over again is hard.
In contrast, Once Upon A Time hit season two running. Curse is broken. Things are moving.
Once Upon A Time hit its stumbling point in season one. The show seemed aimless, turning into name dropping, introducing new characters each week while the original narrative spun out of control. By adding some new voices to the team, OUAT was able to turn around and close with an amazing finale.
Did they go full dragon? Yes. Yes, they did.
So, what makes the second season strong?
How about a mob marching on the queen? A few new characters are snuck in, some in our parallel universe. The most curious new character came in at the very beginning. I refuse to conjecture at this point. On top of that, a new Evil is unleashed in the wraith.
But what’s a big source of conflict? A bunch of suddenly self-actualized fairy tale characters are trapped in a town, each individual seeking their own happy ending. It’s a clash of storytelling. Everyone has the potential for conflict, even without being an evil queen or corrupted immortal.
Which brings me to the “bad guys.”
In Regina, our evil queen, Once Upon A Time has given me the villain I want to root for. They muddied those waters by giving her a weepy backstory (I don’t need my evil queens to have backstory; just make them kick ass and I will be pleased). She’s not misunderstood. She’s not trying to simply create her own happy ending. She has power and it has corrupted her. She’s smart and manipulative. Chillingly evil. I love it. She foils those annoying do-gooders and it looks like a team-up is on the way.
By the end of the episode, our smart, spunky modern girl is transported to fairy tale world with her same-age mother. So, like Revolution, we’ve fallen into another commonly used YA trope, but at least we’re dealing with grown-ups this time, right?
While I still think Once Upon A Time is an advertisement for Disney movies (Whistle While You Work is not from the Brothers Grimm; Pongo is an overt reference to 101 Dalmatians), it’s still doing wonderful things for the fantasy genre in making it accessible and acceptable to the masses. If you haven’t seen Season 1, it’s out on DVD and available through Netflix. Catch up and we can talk about it.
Are you watching? What are your thoughts? If not Once Upon A Time, what should I be watching?