If I Can’t Love Her

I am going down the Disney Broadway rabbit hole today after seeing Newsies in the movie theater last night. It makes me wonder why we don’t record and show musicals in theaters more often like that. Not all of us can make it to NYC. Heck, not all of us live in a city where traveling productions even come. They do, sort of, come here but there is no good place for them to perform. My nearest places are Tampa, Orlando and Atlanta for national tours of Broadway shows. So, when they come to my local movie theater or are something I can rent on line, I just start spending money like it’s going out of style.

But, I digress. I started this post to share with you all THE song I think of when I think Disney and Broadway. I first saw Beauty and the Beast performed on stage in Toronto on a surprise trip that Mom and Dad ended up having to tell us about because my sister refused to get in the car until they told her where we going (which pretty much sums up my sister as a kid). I was already a musical theater nerd by this point but I remember, to this day, the closing song of the first act of that exact show. I can still watch this song performed in my mind. How the stage moved, how the Beast acted and that song. That song is what you call a showstopper. It’s the sort of song that when performed well brings you both to your feet and to tears. I think I sat stunned after the curtain closed on the Beast standing over the rose but my dad jumped to his feet to head to the lobby and bought the recording of the show on the spot. It’s that kind of song.

I have since been lucky enough to see this show performed live many times but I still remember this first time I heard this song the best. So, for your Friday enjoyment, I give you “If I Can’t Love Her.”

Pete’s Dragon

I was going to love Pete’s Dragon. No matter what critics said or didn’t say, I was going to love it. That said, I didn’t think I would love it as much as I did. For starters, there is no singing which is my favorite part of the original film. Some of my all-time favorite Disney music comes out of the original Pete’s Dragon. And secondly, Elliot was…different. I remember the first trailer and just sort of sitting there until I could spit out, “wait…Elliot has FUR?!” I adored the animated pink and green dragon of the original (my first car that I paid for, which was blue, was named for him. Yeah, I don’t know either. I just loved the character that much). So, while I knew I would still love it because of reasons, I didn’t expect to be quite as enchanted as I was.

Luckily, I was primed for the big difference because of a review I read last Friday before I went to see it. They talked about how it was a quiet film, one that harkened back to some of the classic childhood films like E.T. There are action scenes but the real story is the family, the relationships, the growing pains the main characters feel; not the explosions or chase scenes. It reminded me of my favorite live action Disney films when I was younger: the original Escape to Witch Mountain, The Apple Dumpling Gang, even The Parent Trap. It wasn’t loud, overcomplicated, or silly to the point of ridiculousness. They were usually about a kid, or a group of kids, just trying to find a place to belong and the friends they make along the way.

This new version of Pete’s Dragon is gorgeous; visually stunning. Its time period is slightly non-descript but probably the late 1970s? At one point, I remember thinking “a John Denver song would fit well here.” It’s harkening back to what seemed like a much simpler time, a safer time, though villains still lurk. The villain of misunderstanding, of fear, of ambition. Those people who must destroy what they do not understand. The worst kind of villain to me; the kind I wish I could just reach into the screen and shake for all I’m worth. Pete’s Dragon has a good one of those here. In the original, the villain is a cartoon in live action; here the villain is someone who is simply afraid and has the power to act on his fear and turn it to his advantage in the town.

For a villain, there must be a hero and Pete lives up to the title. They do maybe hammer it home a bit much (lots of the characters call Pete brave throughout the film) but Pete lives up to the word. His story is heartbreaking on many levels (why he meets Elliot is pretty devastating); but his character is one of curiosity and acceptance so he learns to adapt, to adjust and to thrive. Some will argue I’m sure that the character adjusts too quickly; to which I would remind them it’s an hour and a half movie. He is brave but I don’t think he’s ever thought of himself in those terms. He was simply living. Those he meets in his journey are much like him; curious about the world around them, trying to adjust and accept as the world around them changes. The forest ranger Grace who finds Pete, Grace’s father who swears he saw a dragon in the forest years before, Grace’s fiance and his daughter. Perhaps they are reluctant at first but as the movie builds, they see that a dragon can be a friend, not a foe.

Which brings us to Eliot. The animation is fantastic; at no point does Eliot looks like a cartoon out of place in the film. He blends with his scenery, interacts seamlessly with Pete and the other actors. The fur does make him a bit more cuddly, a bit more approachable and less like a dinosaur out of Jurassic Park so that did the job. But the character remains much the same as the original film; he’s still a bit of goof, clumsy at times, fierce when his friend is in danger and lost when he doesn’t understand something. His relationship with Pete is the heart of the film and honestly, that is what makes it sing.

Remembering Why You Walk Away from a Book Series

So, my reading goal for the year is to go back through and finish all the series I’ve started over the years on my reading list. Well, one of them and the one that will take the most time. The other is to also read those pesky personal development books I keep adding to the list and never reading but that’s a goal for another day.

However, in starting this goal, I am remembering perhaps why I stepped away from the first series on my list.

I am a Disney geek. You know this. I know this. So, it goes without saying that I pounced onto reading the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson when it started. Never mind that I am clearly NOT the target audience, it was awesome. The idea that these kids, who were originally simply to be hologram guides for visitors to the parks were also designed to cross over at night and do battle with the Overtakers AKA Disney villains because, people, THEY ARE ALL REAL! The villains, the heroes, they all are real and actually exist in the parks. But, the villains were getting a bit uppity (as they do) and so Imagineers brought in the Kingdom Keepers to fight them.

So, awesome right? And it was, I devoured the first books in the series and then once I was caught up to where they were, added the 5th book to my list and promptly forgot to go back. So now I am 4 books behind and remembering why I perhaps didn’t go running for the 5th book when it was released.

So, I have issues with the middle books in series like this. The kids are around 14-15 years old and they are just well…annoying. Whiny, making stupid decisions, in-fighting with friends they’ve always gotten along with, making drama where none really needs to exists etc. Essentially, I call this the Harry Potter 5th Book Syndrome (tell me you didn’t want to reach in and smack him repeatedly in Order of the Phoenix and I will call you out on it). Now, this doesn’t mean the author is doing anything wrong. In fact, when you can write a believably bratty teenager that the reader is still somehow rooting for, you’re doing something very right. But, it can be annoying to read and the Kingdom Keepers series has FIVE such characters with a few ancillary characters in the same age range. That is a lot of teenage drama to pack into a book that is already packed with other problems coming at the characters.

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Book 5 of the Kingdom Keepers series, Shell Game (from Goodreads)

And that is exactly what I found when I picked up Shell Game (Kingdom Keepers #5). Five characters that are in that awkward 14-15 year range, their relationships with their parents, with their friends, with each other are all changing rapidly and they still have these pesky Overtakers, now on the inaugural voyage of the Disney Dream through the Panama Canal, to deal with on top of all the rest. I think, what bugged me the most about this book is…it dragged. Like, I skimmed a good quarter of it. Pearson is best when he keeps it fast and to the point with his narrative. This one was, I think now that I am halfway through the 6th book, setting up the next book that it really wasn’t much fun to read since nothing was really solved in the end. Also, the book was a bit too much of a commercial for the Disney Cruise Line at times (and as someone who will hop on the DCL at any time if she can, that is saying something), to the point that it dragged the narrative down. I still enjoyed the characters, all five annoying teenagers really in need of a big sister to give some much needed advice, and also the story is still great and I like the idea that the archive is somehow important to the fight (which is headed to the West Coast where the Disney Archive is conveniently located). And hey, the book ended on a massive cliffhanger so no matter how annoyed I was, I still immediately reached for the next book to find out what happened. Mission accomplished for Pearson at that point (and one of the bonuses to being a few books behind in a series, you never had to wait to find out what happens next!)

Book 6 so far has been a better paced book so it’s clear book 5 suffered from having to set the stage and not have a conclusion of its own. I have two more books in this series to go at that point but we’ll see how I’m feeling. One thing I also promised myself was if when I start reading the next book, if I don’t like it then end of line for me and that series. It’s good to be able to make up the rules for a goal as you go!

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.

All Nighter

I never pulled an all nighter in college. I was one of those annoying students who finished papers and take home exams days before they were due. I can remember two late nights. One was on an essay for my Working Girls class. Not that kind of working girl mind you, the class took a look at the portrayal of women and work through the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d not done well on my first paper for that class so I did what I often did in cases like this, blew the second paper into major dramatic proportions. I needed to nail it; it needed to be the best paper this professor had ever read. I had gone to the library to start work on it in the early evening but I got into a groove and just kept working and writing and suddenly it was 2AM and I was still in the attic of the library. Not a big deal really but it happened to be I lived quite a walk from library at the time so the walk was perhaps not something I should have been doing. The other time was actually before the last one though I remember it less vividly. I’d been getting no where on a paper. I didn’t know what I was trying to say in it or where I wanted to take it. I was frustrated and annoyed. So, I did the only thing I could think of; scrapped it. All four pages of useless pratter I’d managed to write and started over. At 11PM. My poor roommate. However, once I didn’t have to worry about what I’d said before, I was able to make headway and once I started making headway, I didn’t want to stop for fear I’d run into a roadblock if I walked away. So I got about half the paper done before I was confident I knew where I wanted the rest of the paper to go. All this to lead up to a story about Walt Disney World. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Heading into MK at 11PM

I missed the first 24 Hour event in the Parks. I was in Florida at the time but unable to justify taking the day off, driving down and dealing with the crowds. So, I lived vicariously through my Twitter feed and was bummed I missed it. When the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter to promote the upcoming release of Monsters University was announced it just so happened to fall on a weekend I was already planning on visiting. So I talked my sister and her newly minted fiance into going when I got to Orlando after driving down from Tallahassee at 9PM. To start with, I think our timing was off. We managed to arrive just as Wishes! was going off which meant the pakring lot at MK was still full as the first mass exodus from the park had not occurred. Instead, we were parked at Epcot and left to work our way to MK. The line for the monorail was mammoth so we opted for a bus to the Contemporary and then a walk to MK. It’s funny to see the park packed to the gills at 11PM which is about the time we finally made it in the gates. They had already run out of buttons and t-shirts so no souvenir merchandise for me which saved me money. We did make it for the second showing of Memories. Because of the lighter crowds in the Hub, we were able to get closer than usual and really enjoy the detail of the show.

Full Moon over Cinderella Castle

We then booked it out of there to avoid getting caught by the 1AM showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade. However, the park packed. The wait for Big Thunder Mountain was more than we were willing to wait (it would have put us on the ride at about 2AM) so we hit up Haunted Mansion and The Little Mermaid. The full moon lit the park in both a cool and eerie way. I was thinking it was a good Kingdom Keepers vibe. After Mermaid, we decided the other lines were longer than we wanted to commit to (I’d had coffee before coming so I was wide awake, my sister and her fiance however were fading fast) so we headed for our last stop – ice cream. At 2AM. No better time! The Eye Scream Sundae, special for the event, was delicious. I went for the Mint Chocolate version complete with a white chocolate Mike circa University disc. Just as we finished eating, the dance party in front of the Castle was getting started. A DJ was setting up to keep people awake and moving as they entered the home stretch. We danced out way down Main Street and started the long trek back to our car at Epcot. Taking the monorail in that time of night was fun though – seeing Epcot getting spruced up for guests the next day.

All in all, I am glad I went and experienced one of the 24 hour events though I don’t know that I’d need to attend another one. A fun novelty definitely but not something I need to do again.

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.

Did Cinderella Eat Your Daughter When You Weren’t Looking?

From Goodreads

Sigh, I need to be careful here, I know. I don’t have a daughter of my own nor will I have one any time soon. I only have my experience as a daughter myself, along with four years of women’s studies where I read books like this by the dozens – particularly ones that look at how fairy tale mythology operates in today’s culture. I wrote my thesis on that after all. It was even focused on Cinderella. My conclusions dealt with the idea that Cinderella is an ever-adaptable myth; whether you put her in science fiction or horror. She is also at her best when she is surrounded by strong support groups, often female, rather than isolated as she is often pictured. Even Disney’s Cinderella had her band of faithful animal friends to fall back on for a dress. So, I’d say I came to this particular examination of Cinderella and how she translates in the modern world “girlie culture” with a fairly solid background of knowledge.

In Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, I agree with the main thesis. I cannot argue against the fact that the way culture and society inundate girls from the second they leave the womb with conflicting messages of pink, princess, sex and more pink is a problem. However, that problem goes in both directions because don’t we inundate boys with black, blue and how to be a “real” man from the start as well? I’d say gender modeling hasn’t quite gotten to the equality stage we’d like and science, as Orenstein explains, may not ever let the sexes be entirely on the same footing because, like it or not, some of it is genetic. There are some things we do seem to be hardwired to do, to be. What made me anxious reading this book was how anxious that made Orenstein. Is it a bad thing if there are a few inherent differences? Shouldn’t we celebrate those as much as we do when we make a step forward in gender equality? Wouldn’t it be slightly boring if we were all the same?

I know, it bugs me that I was wondering that too. But Orenstein is anxious, worried, almost obsessed with the fact that she might be somehow either not raising her daughter anti-girlie or not raising her girlie enough. As I am not yet a parent, I have to ask – does everyone get this worried about this? As I thought about my own childhood, I tried to think about my parents and how they approached raising my sister and me, opposites from the day we were born. I come from a Disney family so the Disney Princesses were always there in some fashion. I had a Beauty and the Beast lunch box for years in elementary school, I saw all the movies when they came out, and we went to the parks all the time. I, however, wasn’t a kid when Disney Princesses was a brand, when parents spend fortunes to let their daughters go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, when it seems like a family vacation to Walt Disney World is now somehow ruined because the little princess doesn’t get to have breakfast at the Castle with Cinderella.

Personally, I loathed wearing dresses as a kid (still do), had more guy friends than girls (that changed when I got to high school), could play tackle football with the best of them and wanted to be smart, brainy Belle when I grew up. The fact that she was a princess somehow didn’t really seem to register. She liked to read, she spoke her mind and she wasn’t afraid of the Beast. Oh, and I hated the color pink. I have made my peace with it over the years but I’d still pick blue over it any day of the week. My sister? Adores dressing up, loves pink, can ride any horse you put her on and will give you an opinion of any college basketball team in the country on demand. Now, I’d need to ask but I don’t think Mom and Dad ever fretted over whether to buy me the Barbie house versus a book nor do I think they worried when Ally discovered horses, makeup or declared her wish to become a sports broadcaster. I think they were just always present; paying attention, supporting us and letting us find our own way whether that was by decking out in pink and frills or enjoying earth tones and hiking boots.

And that brings me to my biggest issue with this book – I don’t think Orenstein needs to be that worried. She is ever present in her daughter’s life, a little girl who seems to have a healthy curiosity, who enjoyed Disney Princesses until she graduated to Wonder Woman and who sounds, quite frankly, that she is more aware of women stereotypes than I am. This is a little girl who asks questions and who has a mother informed, interested and open enough to answer and then see what her daughter does. Culture and society are not going to change any time soon. We still see trends today that we’ve seen from the 1950s. At the same time, there are new trends, trends yet to show themselves and trends we haven’t even thought of yet. Yes, Cinderella is always going to be there, be she in Ashenputtel, Cendrillon or Cindy garb, but I think the best way to deal with her is head on and see what happens. I think we may find our daughters just might surprise us. Or, maybe I’ll go into spasms of worry the second I have a baby daughter of my own but I think having a little more faith in ourselves as caretakers and our daughters as bright, intelligent women with equally strong women ahead and behind them will be the best cure to Cinderella fever we’ll ever find.