Favorite Disney Heroines who aren’t Princesses

Meg, sassy as always. Source.

Meg, sassy as always. Source

The above artwork came across my Tumblr feed this week and I immediately re-blogged. It reminded me of the awesome ladies of Disney who often (re: usually) get overshadowed by their sisters who wear crowns. So, here is some love for the ladies who may not be royalty but are awesome anyway:

Like I said, girl is sassy. Source

We will start with the inspiration for this post, Megara. Meg knows what is up. She’s had it tough so she learned to take care of herself and if that meant making a few shady deals with the God of the Underworld so be it. Meg is a bit jaded but even she can’t resist a true hero forever and helps her boy save the world (admittedly by dying which is problematic from a feminist standpoint but at least she chose a guy who’d go to the Underworld and back for her).

Best fight in a church ever! Source

The next lady I thought of was Esmeralda, the street-savvy dancer with the best sidekick goat this side of the Seine. Esmeralda can take care of herself and her friends when she needs to, is always ready for a witty last word and stands up for what she knows to be right. I was so disappointed in the book version of her that I like to ignore the original for this much cooler version.

Jane. Owner of one of my sister’s favorite quotes (“And Daddy, they took my boot!). Jane is smart, curious and independent with a father who supports her adventurous spirit. Not a lady to sit idly at home, she journeys off the Africa to see the animals she’s studied face to face and does just what she pleases, no matter what her expedition leader thinks. I think what I also always appreciated about Jane is she goes with the flow no matter what. [above Gifset in best format I can get it – hey, I’m learning! See the original here.]

Miss Bianca is always up for an adventure. Source

Miss Bianca came to mind next. Classy, in control and with a heart as big as her whole body, Miss Bianca is always ready to ride off to save the day as ordered. She is also not above picking on her stalwart companion’s more anxious approach to their missions as needed.

Olivia upon meeting Toby. Source

Lilo’s got moves. Source

I feel like these two would be a) awesome friends and b) big trouble. Olivia is brave and smart enough to survive her father’s kidnapping, hire Basil of Baker Street to find him and then run off with Basil to save the day. Lilo would appreciate a friend who would have her back no matter the adventure and would think her “dog” is pretty awesome too.


Transformers sad

Just a quick note to say I finally saw the fourth Transformer movie and that is two hours and thirty minutes of my life that I can’t get back…

One good thing? Stanley Tucci. Seriously, I would watch anything for that man and he just about makes the movie bearable as long as he is in the scene. If not, forget it. Even Mark Wahlberg, who I usually adore, could not save this. Also, could we have more useless female leads in a film if we tried? You seriously could have cut out Sophia Myles‘ role and been fine. She added literally nothing that I can tell that another, more established character, couldn’t have done. In fact they should have cut because this film needed some serious editing.

Sad part? After two hours and thirty minutes I really don’t actually know most of the characters’ names or what actually happened. Look, I know the actors are ridiculous and I like to block out the third movie and rarely watch the second, but excuse me while I go watch the first Transformers movie to remember once they used to at least be fun to watch.

The Brothers Grimm

I originally had thought for my DVD re-watch project, I would go in alphabetical order. But, then Friday the 13th came around and I thought a scary movie was in order. Now, a couple of things. One, 13 is a lucky number for my family. My sister and I were both born on a 13th – I even turned 13 on Friday the 13th which I have always loved. In fact, last Friday was my sister’s 25th birthday. So, I don’t really have the same superstition about 13 as many have. Two, I don’t actually do “scary” movies. I am a wimp and have no qualms about it. I like  dark action movie or one that is creepy but I draw the lines at movies that try every five minutes to scare you out of your skin. Not my thing. Honestly, Tim Burton is about as scary as I get. I still have nightmares about a certain Supernatural episode for the love of Pete and even my beloved Doctor Who gave me a complex about stone statues. So yeah, a wimp may be too kind a word.

However, if a creepy movie has a good enough hook, I’ll watch and just bury my head in a pillow frequently. Hence why, a long time ago, I shelled out for a copy of The Brothers Grimm. Starring two of my favorites, Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, it had a promising premise. Jake and Will Grimm are con artists who go throughout the French-occupied German countryside, taking advantage of local folklore to act as 18th century ghost hunters. That all goes awry when they end up in a real enchanted village where young girls are mysteriously disappearing and they are charged by the French occupiers to discover what is happening and to stop it.


Sigh, this movie is sort of scary? For Friday the 13th, it fell flat. I should have gone with The Mummy. Even for me, Grimm is on the weak side. It had been a long time since I watched this and honestly, I remembered it being better. It has great potential – the idea should be great but the execution is lacking. The story meanders a lot and takes too long to get to its climax. It has good characters – I particularly enjoy Heath Ledger as Jacob Grimm, the reluctant former scholar who follows Will from one con to the next. His willingness to believe in the fairy tale is endearing and what one would expect from a Grimm. Peter Stormare also deserves a thumbs up for his creepy yet delightful Cavaldi who is constantly trying to torment or kill someone via over the top means. At one point he has the Grimm brothers dressed in aprons and bonnets scrubbing the floor a la Cinderella. It’s weird and yet makes me laugh. The Brothers Grimm does have its moments, including one of its best quotes (TRUST THE TOAD!), but overall, it falls flat. One for the Goodwill pile to start out my rewatching.

Well, that’s summer then…

I will admit, the fact that it is September literally shocked me. Summer went so fast! It helped that I was very busy for most of it and had lots of fun times but that also meant I apparently didn’t have time to blog. I have reasons.

Up a tree. Photo credit to my awesome cousin Jodi
One, summer was, as I said, busy! I got to go home when the temperature was above 40 degrees which means dinner at the Loop, races in Oswego, ice cream at Byrne Dairy and especially an awesome, no holds barred feast up at Grandma and Grandpa’s camp. It was awesome! And then I went to Orlando to hang with a super awesome family which meant actually having children with me at the Disney parks. This was novel and so much fun and slightly nerve wracking because at times, in case you’ve never visited a theme park of any kind in the summer months, it was CROWDED. The amount of people required capital letters. But, we had a blast and rode lots of rides and ate lots of food and just had a fantastic time at Disney. I then turned right around and left for New Orleans for a conference but I did get to see some of the city but it’s on my “really need to go back and spend days exploring” list because I really only had a day to see the highlights and that wasn’t doing it justice. I did get beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde though and it is as tasty as they say. I always like when things live up to their praise.
Two, work. I love my job, I really do but we were very busy this summer. Hopefully, sometime this fall people will start to see the fruit of all our work when our new digital library site goes live but until then, I don’t have much to show for everything we’ve done but know that we worked hard this summer on lots of stuff and hopefully this fall we’ll get some awesome things to show for it. One of the downsides of my job though is a lot of hours in front of the computer screen meaning the last thing I often want to touch when I get home at night is my laptop.
Three, I think I am officially in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been reading very fast or very much. Nor have I been that interested in what I’ve been reading. I am hoping to get back on track this fall and into a reading routine again. That always helps me stay on track with books even if they aren’t holding my attention very well.
Four, something about summer just means I go out for an hour and then spend four in front of the TV. Not good. I was hoping to get rid of cable (and temptation) but a frustrating couple of phone calls meant it would cost me more to pay for just internet instead of my current bundle (how twisted is that?!) so cable stays. However, a reading routine and books I actually want to finish will help me kick the cable habit I have developed! Also, the start of the fall TV schedule will help as when I know there is a show I want to watch at 10, I make the effort to read from 8 until 10.

Sigh, so good. Beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde
I also am debating a movie re-watch of all my movies and blogging about it. This is both an effort to do some cleaning of my DVD collection (would I want to watch this ever again?) and also an effort to blog more about movies AND books again. We’ll see if this fall works out for that or if that becomes a winter project (or at least as wintry as it gets in the South – autumn is just depressing because I really miss all the colors)
And recipes too should be making a reappearance here! I actually think I have a recipe to share that I just never did this summer so I will try to dig that up and share ASAP. I did just try a new dish last week but it was kind of blah so not sharing that one. Again, I am hoping to get back into a routine this fall and cooking is on the list to make a priority!
Happy Fall everyone!

84, Charing Cross Road

There is something delicious with books about books. Forget the metaness of it for the moment. It’s like reading a book by the one person in the world who gets you. A person who understands the mystery and romance and adventure that can be held between covers and 300 pages. I have always loved books that explore the reader, that gives the reader the sense that they are enjoying a story written by someone who should be their new best friend. I love all books of course; however a book that loves books as much as I do gets its own category. Literally. I have an entire shelf on Goodreads entitled books-about-books. It ranges from the scholarly explorations of reader response and histories of books and readers to fiction that lives and breathes book culture. There is nothing more disappointing than finding a book in that category that mislead you. That was supposed to revel in books and then just doesn’t (I am looking at you Time Traveler’s Wife. I tossed you against a wall and hurried to donate you for lots of reasons but your lack of book love when one of your main characters is a librarian was nothing sort of despicable to my mind). If you can find a book that stars a bookstore on top of readers and their books, you have hit the jackpot and that book must be savored. 84, Charing Cross Road is one of these gems.

From Goodreads

Helene Hanff is a struggling writer in 1950 New York City and laments the lack of easy to get English Literature. She finds her way to writing to a bookstore at 84, Charing Cross Road in London and so begins this epistolary novel in which Helene and Frank Doehl, the worker at the bookstore who responds to her orders, develop a close relationship over several decades. The novel is a quick read; I believe I read it in one evening but not because I was not savoring it. Helene and I might not share the love of the same kinds of literature but our love of books as a thing, of reading as an activity and of London as a place made me feel like I’d found a soul mate. This is a book that celebrates so many “endangered” communication methods – mail by post, packages literally tied with string, and books of the leather bound, beautiful paper variety. While I think books as objects aren’t quite as close to obsolescence as some people lament, they are a form of communication at a moment of crisis and I can’t help but wonder what Helene or Frank would think of where we are in the ebook debate.

After I had enjoyed the book one rainy evening, I discovered there had been a movie made starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. While the fact an epistolary novel was turned into a movie gave me pause, I was curious enough about how they did it to check the film out through Netflix. I am glad I did. Bancroft and Hopkins perfectly portray how I imagined the rather abrupt and ornery Helene and the very proper and upright, yet with that sneaking British sense of humor, Frank would be. I especially loved that the script very much used the letters in the book for the dialogue. Bancroft is especially strong when addressing her letters directly to the camera, as if she was speaking directly to Frank. Post-war London was depicted as both resilient and yet still recovering form the long years of war and deprivation which post war New York is both quaint and yet bustling – showing the major metropolis it would become so quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a New York I think I would like better than the modern version.

I would recommend the book, it’s such an approachable read, but if you must, at least watch the film. It is a charming romance between people and books an ocean apart.

Ah, the Classics

It is my tradition that when I have a Disney trip coming up, I watch all my Disney movies before I go. I also get all the Disney movies from the library, and this time Netflix even got into the mix. To me, that is like another countdown as I save my very favorites until right before I go (meaning on the docket this week is Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, The Rocketeer and Wall-E). One thing I wanted to do this time was revisit some of the classic Disney films, ones I hadn’t watched since I was a child.

From Listal

I started with Dumbo. I have only vague memories of ever watching this film as a kid. Re-watching it, I was touched by the drama of the animation. The storm when they are pitching the circus tent, the fire in Dumbo’s clown stunt, the very odd almost Heffalumps and Woozles sequence after Dumbo gets (gasp!) accidentally drunk. The artistry of the film struck me as I know this was not one of Walt Disney’s favorite films because of what he saw as a lack of artistry in it (it was essentially only made to make money and that was never something Walt was interested in doing really). This could be because hand drawn animation is becoming more and more a lost art that I just revel in it when I watch it. So that struck me. What also struck me was how…well…politically incorrect it is. The animal cruelty it displays is a bit appalling at times especially in the treatment of Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mother. And I won’t touch the singing crows with a ten foot pole. That said, I liked Dumbo. It’s a fabulous little movie with a lovely story and great music. The crows that sing it might be questionable but “If I See an Elephant Fly” has to be one of my all-time favorite Disney songs. It’s so catchy and bouncy and, English nerd alert, the word play is just plain fun!

From Amazon

I next tackled Bambi, and I do mean tackled. I have memories of sobbing watching this film as a kid because remember, it’s me and this is a film where animals will be in peril ergo there will most likely be tears. However, I actually made it through without crying and I think that was because I spent the whole movie waiting for the other shoe to drop if that makes sense. I knew what was coming so I was on pins and needles, steeling myself for it the entire film. The first basically has the two major disasters and the plot works around both of them. It’s almost episodic, more along the lines of a Fantasia with the same characters reappearing in each section. Now, in Bambi, hand drawn animation is shown at its finest. It was one of the film they used the multiplane camera on and you can tell they had fun playing and continuing to learn how to best use that camera. The depth of the camera shots is astounding and reminds me a lot of one of my favorite scenes in Beauty and the Beast – the opening shot of the Prince’s castle through the forest and over the waterfall – the depth of that scene never fails to capture my imagination and all of Bambi basically had that sort of depth. The story is perhaps not my favorite – it’s portrayal of family dynamics was fascinating but very 1940s and I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of Bambi’s love interest Faline. I didn’t think it was possible to want to smack a deer…it is. That said, I am in love with Flower – he has officially entered Krystal’s Favorite Disney Character Annuals.

From Listal

I finished up with Pinocchio. I distinctly remember not liking this film when I was a kid. I think Pinocchio annoyed me. I was very much a goody-two shoes (still am, let’s face it) and Pinocchio’s failure to do what he was told at every turn was just irksome, even to my eight year old self. Particularly when he had Jiminy Cricket there telling him that what he was doing was a bad idea (I am very much a fan of Jiminy’s – I associate him more with the Disney environmental movement and as the voice of Wishes than I do with his own movie though). I also remember being scared by this film, a lot more than any others we watched when I was young. Not even the evil queen in Snow White could scare me as much as the scenes at Pleasure Island when the boys are all turning into donkeys. However, I am happy to report I liked it on my recent viewing. It will never be my favorite Disney movie – I doubt I’d ever even shell out the money to add it to my movie collection but I appreciated it much more as an adult than as a kid. The storytelling is really quite good – it flows well and it is plausible for Pinocchio to end up where he does at all times. Again, the animation was impressive, particularly the Monstro scenes. A belated kudos to the special effects animation team because those scenes were awesome as were the appearances of the Blue Fairy.

Overall, I was glad I took the time to re-watch these classics and revisit them as I truly don’t think I’d watched any of these films since I was 8 or 9 years old. I grew up in the second golden age of animation – I was much more into Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King but as I get older, I can appreciate more the legacy those films fit into. I particularly wanted to watch these films again as these were Walt’s films and as I get to (FINALLY) visit the park that Walt built later this year, I wanted to make sure to fit the classics of the first golden age into my schedule.

The Happiest Millionaire

I grew up on a healthy dose of the classic live-action Disney films. I can quote The Apple Dumpling Gang verbatim and still prefer the original Escape to Witch Mountain than any remake they’ve done since. I was, however, not a big fan of the Love Bug movies – weird I know. I somehow missed The Happiest Millionaire until now. My sister should be pleased – she would have hated it. Me, on the other hand, I would have dug up the soundtrack and driven my parents crazy singing “Fortuosity” continuously while wishing I could have a pet alligator.

The Happiest Millionaire tells the story of the eccentric Biddle family, millionaires in 1916 Philadelphia. As the story opens, a new butler, John Lawless joins the family and Cordy, their teenaged daughter is having trouble growing up when her Father won’t let her. So, Cordy goes off to a girls’ school, falls in love with a car happy young man from New York and then chaos ensues as the wedding approaches when their two very different families clash.

The look of this film was so familiar – it’s a musical in the best of traditions. The sets look like a cross between My Fair Lady and Hello, Dolly! In fact, the opening number “Fortuosity” has a dance routine to it that was a cross between Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” number and a little bit of “Elegance” from Hello, Dolly! The songs, written by the Sherman Brothers, are fun and engaging and I really enjoyed the casting. Fred MacMurray is perfect as the irate yet loveable Father, a much more huggable Rex Harrison-type. Lesley Ann Warren made her screen debut in this film; while I loved her as Cordy, I just kept seeing her as Miss Scarlett.

The length of the film was daunting; I was impressed by the attention spans of kids in the 60s. The film even includes an overture, intermission and entr’acte – its set-up was a lot like The Great Race which is also marathon length (but so worth it if only for the characters Jack Lemmon plays and an epic food fight). However, at no point does the film drag which, at almost 3 hours, is impressive. However, it’s worth the commitment. The last 30 minutes of the film are the best part, including a dancing sequence in a small, crowded bar, that as a choreographed scene, is extremely well done. I know I sound like a dance geek and a musical nerd, which I am, but I think anyone could enjoy this film. So don’t be intimidated with the length, make a batch of popcorn and resign yourself to humming “Fortuosity” for the next week.