think we all need at least one really nice positive thing about the
entertainment  business every single day of the year, including
weekends. Sometimes it may be something simple, like a video that
showcases something fun and sometimes it may be a movie poster that
embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to aspire to. Sometimes it
may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll be from the staff and
extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you readers can get in on it.
So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will get a little bit of
positivity from one column a day here. Take it with you. Maybe it’ll
help you through a bad day or give folks some fun things to hunt down in
their busy celluloid digesting day.

by Elisabeth Rappe  Author Page Twitter Page Facebook Page

What I’m Thankful For

Disney Animation

(Image from Blu-Ray.com)

It is so easy to cast venom on Disney. Their crass commercialism is indefensible.  They are a brand, and one that’s tried awfully hard to be as trashy and disposable as McDonalds or Burger King.   Even the popularity of sub-studio Pixar hasn’t really helped Disney’s awful reputation with film lovers.  Pixar is cool, edgy, conscientious.  Disney is corny, bloated, and after the bottom line.

But the movies! The movies are wonderful.  Like many people last week, I bought Beauty and the Beast on DVD last week (finally replacing my VHS — I’m a technological dinosaur!) and watched it for the first time in years. I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched it. It was nearly like seeing it for the first time, because it’s never been so crisp and breathtaking as it is on a flatscreen, and because I’d forgotten how expansive their landscapes were.   All I ever really remembered as “pretty” from childhood was The Ballroom Scene — a moment of computer wizardry that stuck in my mind as firmly as Jurassic Park.  It was the future!

It’s a testament to the power of Disney’s unsung storytellers, anonymously toiling away under the corporate behemoth, that these movies can hold their head up against the relentless merchandising and marketing.  When I watch any of them, I don’t think “Man, I wish they hadn’t done that lousy direct-to-DVD sequel.”  I feel a surge of powerful nostalgia because it reminds me when The Little Mermaid appeared on my first grade radar, and my classmates and I wondered aloud what the plot was. “Is it a little mermaid who wants to be big?”  (Yes, take a moment to wonder why the hell we weren’t exposed to Hans Christian Andersen. I certainly have.) 

But wait! What about the ugly moral messages, so popularly debated in college classes and on feminist blogs, decrying the effect they’ve had on generations of young women.  Princesses! Bah! Don’t you know what fairy tales are really telling young women?

Bah. Look, I love to analyze stuff until I’ve pulled it apart like a sweater.  Yes, I could write a paper about The Little Mermaid being a silent (ha!) advocate for feme covert or the abusive themes in Beauty and the Beast.  I did that stuff all the time in college. I nodded along, lips pursed in an appropriately studious and disgusted expression as we watched a documentary (the name escapes me) about the poisonous effects of Disney on our children. And the whole time I was thinking “I hope no one here sees my Sleeping Beauty watch … do you think they’ll buy the excuse I love it only because the animators borrowed from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry?”

I’m older and wiser.  I can admit it I love the music, the animation, the characters, the cuteness, and the childhood fuzziness it encompasses.  I watched them all and I turned out a fine, strong, and independent woman. (More than I can say for a lot of my classmates.) When I watch a Disney movie, I don’t think about the toys, the sequels, the theme parks, or the potentially damaging themes. I don’t even think how much “better” the original fairy tales are. (Odd how the modern world believes resisting the multiple interpretations of tales is a sign of sophistication.  I guarantee the original folk tellers didn’t believe there was a pure version, and could appreciate the addition of songs and bluebirds as simply another storytellers version.)

No, instead all I can think about is the time we took our brand new VHS of Beauty and the Beast to my grandma’s house.   She agreed to watch it with us, but kept adding the caveat that she “really didn’t like those cartoons.”   She watched the entire thing. It’s a viewing experience that trumped whenever I saw it in the theater, and it’s the one my mind came back to as I watched it again Sunday night. As I said, I’d forgotten much of the little details, but there’s a scene where a trunk eats one of Gaston’s goons and burps.    I instantly remember my grandma laughing out loud.  Later, she gave it the highest praise possible:  “That was really good. I don’t usually like cartoons, but that one was really good.”

That’s what they are. Really good. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.