Tag Archives: Disney Princesses

Thoughts On the Mulan Teaser Trailer

In 1998, Disney broke ground with the release of Mulan. Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, the movie told the story of the eponymous character who dresses as a boy and takes her elderly father’s place during wartime.

The teaser trailer for the live action reboot was released today.

Back then, Mulan (Ming Na-Wen) was a revolutionary character, especially among the Disney Princesses. Unlike other Disney Princesses, her main goal was not men, marriage and eventual children, in spite of the message that was shoved at her in every form possible. Her journey was that of a warrior who was defending her country while trying to figure out who she was.

It is that message, that I think, then and now still resonates with audiences.

This new live adaptation is directed by Niki Caro, whose previous films have featured strong women making tough decisions. Three of the four screenwriters are female. The cast is made up of Asian actors, properly reflecting the world that the characters live in. And yes, there will be some musical elements, but those details are being kept under wrap for now.

As expected, Disney is keeping certain information under wraps until the film is released in March of next year. These live action adaptations straddle a fine line. They have to honor their animated predecessor (and the original fairy tale, if there is one), while reflecting the cultural changes that have occurred since the original film was released.

We can only wait and see when the film is released next year.

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Thoughts On the Casting of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

I am a natural redhead. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was hard to find on screen characters who looked like me. Among the handful who I could look to as inspiration was Ariel (Jodi Benson) in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.

Over the last few years, Disney has rebooted their beloved animated films into live action films. The newest addition to this trend is the live reboot of The Little Mermaid with Halle Bailey stepping into the fins of Disney’s first modern Princess.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this casting. While I applaud Disney for choosing an actress of color to play the role, my heart is still wedded to the idea that Ariel is a redhead. When your growing up and you look different from your peers, you look to film and television characters who look like you. When I was a kid, that was Ariel. As an adult, I don’t agree with her narrative, but her image and the impression she made back then are still with me to this day.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the casting?

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Even Disney Princesses Deal With Crippling Mental Illness

Mental illness affects millions of people around the world. And yet, it feels like you are the only one who suffers.

Recently, Frozen star Patti Murin spoke about her battles with mental illness.

It takes courage, especially if one is in the spotlight, to reveal this very human aspect of themselves. We often elevate celebrities and performers to an almost g-d like state, forgetting that they are human and go through the same things that every human goes through.

I have to admit that I have no impetus to see Frozen on stage. The 2013 animated film was more than enough for me. However, I do admire Ms. Murin for having the courage to go public and talk about a subject that is very personal. My hope is that she inspires anyone who suffers from mental illness to get help so they can live a full and healthy life.

We continue to lose too many to mental illness. If her coming out has saved even one life, then it is worth more than all of the gold, jewels and treasures that this world has to offer.

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Aladdin Movie Review

I will try to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but if you have not seen the movie, I will not be bothered if you only read this review after you have been to the movie theater.

Hollywood has been addicted to reboots since it’s inception. Over the past few years, Disney has added to the general idea of reboots by releasing live action versions of their classic animated films. The most recent film in this sub-genre is Aladdin.

Like it’s 1992 animated predecessor, the film is set in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern city. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is an orphan who lives by the seat of his pants and whatever food he can steal. One day, he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is Princess of Agrabah. Locked in the palace, she yearns for freedom and escapes to the anonymity of the Agrabah marketplace.

Aladdin is roped into Grand Vizier Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) plan to find a mysterious lamp in a mythical cave. But Jafar is less than honest and leaves Aladdin to die. Inside the cave, Aladdin meets Genie (Will Smith), who offers him the possibilities that he could have only imagined of before.

When the original film was released back in 1992, I was a child and had a completely different view than I do now as an adult. Director Guy Ritchie surprised me. I’ve never seen any of his previous films, but based on the trailers, I can’t say that any of them were aimed at or appropriate for the audience that typically sees a Disney film. However, Ritchie and his creative team were able to create a film that is an homage to its predecessor while standing on it’s own two feet.

Two major changes that from my perspective elevated this film from the 1992 animated film was the expansion of Jasmine as a character and the casting of actors whose ethnic background matches the ethnicity of the characters. Instead of just giving lip service to feminism, Jasmine is truly a character in her own right. Not only does she wear more clothes, but she is more than arm candy to the man who she will potentially call husband. In the casting for this movie, the actors who were ultimately chosen are of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. The specific choice of actors adds a level of authenticity that is lacking in the 1992 film.

Speaking of changes to the film, I was very impressed with Will Smith’s version of Genie. Robin Williams’s performance a quarter of a century ago can never be duplicated. However, Smith is able to put his own spin on the character while showing respect to Williams’s Genie.

Though the film is over two hours, it does not fee like it is over two hours. The narrative has a nice pace and the musical sequences fit in nicely with the overall story.

If I had one takeaway from this film (as was the same takeaway from the 1992 film), it was that being yourself is the most important thing and you should never change who you are to please someone else.

I recommend it.

Aladdin is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary Of Mulan

Twenty years ago, Disney introduced audiences to the newest member of the Disney Princess line: Mulan.

Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) is a young woman growing up in ancient China. She is expected the follow the traditional path: marry, have children and live as women before her have lived.

Then the Huns attack and the men are called up to join the army. But Mulan is an only child and her father is not a young man anymore. She takes her father’s place and pretends to be a boy. The ancestors watching her are not pleased with Mulan’s decision and send Mushu (Eddie Murphy) to convince Mulan to stay home. But Mulan will not be convinced otherwise, so Mushu goes with her to battle.

Twenty years ago, Mulan was a revolutionary film for Disney. As a character, Mulan was the most progressive of the Disney Princesses up to that point. She was the second non-Caucasian heroine after Jasmine in Aladdin (1992). Marriage was not her first priority.She was also not a size 2.

In every Disney Princess film, the character’s emotional journey is kicked off by the “I Want” song. In a nutshell, the song describes what they want from life. Mulan’s “I Want” song is “Reflection”. 20 years ago, this song left its emotional mark on me and many others who saw this film. It’s about pretending to be someone else to please your loved ones and the emotional toll it takes on you.

While Disney has a long way to go in terms of how women are represented on film, Mulan was and still is a giant step forward for which I am grateful for.

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Ralph Breaks The Internet Movie Review

When creating animated movies, the creators have to walk a fine line. They have to appeal to both the children and the adults, which is often easier said that done.

Ralph Breaks The Internet premiered today. A sequel of Wreck-It Ralph, the film starts off six years later. Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are still the best of friends. But Vanellope is feeling hemmed in by how predictable her life is. When the game controller on her game breaks, Ralph and Vanellope travel to the Internet to find a new controller. Their plan is supposed to be simple, find the controller on Ebay and go home. But as the saying goes: “mortals plan and G-d laughs”.

While trying to stick to the plan, Ralph and Vanellope meet Shank (Gal Gadot) and Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). Will they be able to accomplish their goal or will things to awry?

This movie is brilliant, funny and appeals to all ages. It has the humor that speaks to the kids and the emotional gravitas that adults will appreciate. I also appreciated the scenes with the Disney Princesses. Without giving too much away, I will say that it was nice that Disney stepped into the modern era by stepping away from the traditional narratives of these traditional characters.

I recommend it.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is presently in theaters. 

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Thoughts On the 28th Anniversary Of The Little Mermaid

Friday was the 28th anniversary of the release of The Little Mermaid.

Loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid the story of Ariel. Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is 16 and the youngest daughter of the King Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars). Rebellious and headstrong (as many teenage girls are), Ariel falls in love with a human prince, Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). Making a deal with the sea witch, Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), Ariel trades her voice and her tail for legs to hopefully be with Eric. But is it worth the trade-off and will she have her happy ending?

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, Ariel is is Disney’s OG Ginger. As a redhead, especially as a redhead of a certain generation, Ariel will always have a place in my heart. But that does not mean that I have issues with the character and the narrative.

  1. Ariel is a size 2. Most of us are not a size 2.
  2. How does she not have third degree sunburns? One of the cardinal rules of being a redhead is that sunscreen is a mandatory part of our morning routine.
  3. She willingly gives up her voice and her legs (i.e. her identity) for a man who she barely knows. Not exactly the message that we should be imparting to our daughters.
  4. When push comes to shove (i.e. Ursula tries to get in the way of Ariel and Eric’s happy ending), it is Eric that saves the day.
  5. Ariel wears a pink dress. I don’t know about other redheads, but it’s not a color that exists in my wardrobe.
  6. Ursula is old and fat. Ariel is young and skinny. Therefore, young and thin is good. Old and fat is bad.

Despite my concerns with this movie, The Little Mermaid will always have a place in my heart. I can’t believe it’s been 28 years.

 

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Flashback Friday-Disney Edition-Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast

Disney is known for their princesses. In the early 90’s the good people at Disney rebooted and reintroduced the world to new Disney Princesses- Ariel and Belle.

Little Mermaid

16 year old mermaid Princess Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is curious and slightly rebellious, as many teenage girls are. Her overprotective father King Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars) wants to keep his family and his kingdom as far away from the humans as they can get. When Ariel saves human Prince Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) from drowning, she falls in love with him. To return to her human Prince, she goes to the sea witch Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll) to trade her fins for legs. But “magic comes with a price” as they say in Once Upon A time. Ariel will soon learn that the magic that Ursula uses to change her physique comes with a price that will have to be paid.

I have very fond memories of this movie. Disney princesses up to this point were for the most part blonde. It was nice to see a ginger in the mix. Ariel to me at least, has this kind of Marianne Dashwood, Catherine Morland sensibility, which seems normal for a teenage girl. Open hearted, slightly naive, but also curious about the world around them.  I haven’t watched this movie in years, but for little girls around the world, it’s not a bad movie.

Beauty And The Beast

On a wet, windy night, an old woman bangs on a castle door, begging for shelter from the storm. The young prince (voiced by Robbie Benson) refuses her shelter. She is not an old woman, but an enchantress who punishes the prince by turning him into a Beast and his servants into household objects. She gives him a rose, which will wilt until his 21st birthday. If he cannot show love and give love, when the last petal falls, he is dead. Miles away, Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) lives in a small town and hates it. She is the bookworm outcast with the unpopular father Maurice ( voiced by Rex Everhart). Gaston (voiced by Richard White), is courting Belle, but she wants nothing to do with him. When Belle’s father does not return from a fair, she goes to where he is being held. The master of the castle is a Beast. To save her father, Belle takes his place.

This movie made a huge impact on me as a child. It is one of the few Disney movies that I still own today. I understood both lead characters. I understood Belle’s love of books and her feeling like she didn’t quite fit in. I understood the Beast’s psychological damage and why he chose to lock himself away.  What keeps me coming back to Beauty and The Beast after all of these years is when you don’t feel like you fit in and then somehow fate guides you to where you fit in and it all makes sense. The square peg in the round hole finally finds the square hole it was meant to fit into. Little girls around this world will love and have loved this movie for two decades.

 

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