Tag Archives: Disney

Togo

I never meant to raise a pack of dogs, it just happened – one dog at a time. First there was Herbie, who was kind enough to allow Sean into the tribe. Herbie was such a swell dog that it seemed irresponsible not to want a second. Thus came Gertie, a tiny little ball of fluff who moved so preciously you might mistake her for an animatronic. Herbie was a good big brother, taking care of his little sister, tolerating her effusive affection. When we moved homes, we got a third, reasoning that Herbie and Gertie would just assume Fudgie came with the property. It would all be one big adjustment that came with more square footage, more land, and one more tiny wagging tail. Three dogs in three years. Fudgie was a quaking, anxiety-riddled mess with lots of kisses and an inexhaustible love of fetch. And then after a hiatus, Sean thought maybe we needed a fourth. And the thing is, nobody actually needs a fourth dog. It tips the scales toward madness. But I’d had a large surgery where basically by body was set on fire in an attempt to burn out the disease. It was painful, and I returned home a mass of fresh oozing wounds who’d wait at home for them to slowly turn into scar tissue. For some reason Sean thought I might need a little cheering up, and a puppy had never failed him yet. Bronx was the runt of his litter, a tiny guy who was immediately intiated into the pack by alpha Herbie, who licked him tip to tail, claiming him.

Togo immediately reminds us of Bronx. He too was the run of his litter, but like Bronx, he grew up to be a big guy with an even bigger heart. Bronx is an utter sweetheart. He often gets into mischief but doesn’t have a single mischievous bone in his body; he’s simply a bit of a bonehead. He’s still playful like a puppy and he has a big sloppy kiss for every single person he meets. The baby of our 4, he likes having his brothers around him and frets when they are not. Gertie was at the hospital again today, and he cried until she came home.

Togo is a husky, but as the runt, his owner Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) dismisses him. There’s no room on a serious Alaska team for a useless dog, so Leonhard tries to give the dog away, but Togo is also full of mischief, and finds a way to escape. Lucky for him Leonhard’s wife Constance (Julianne Nicholson) is a lighter touch. She has the tendency to treat Togo more like a pet than a working dog, a real hazard out in the Alaskan wilds, but soon Togo tugs at even Leonhard’s heart.

In 1925, Alaska was hit hard with diptheria. The children in Leonhard’s town were doomed to perish as the life-saving serum was hundreds of miles away, unreachable. But Leonhard decides to make the perilous trip with trusty Togo leading the way. This real-life journey lives in history books but for nearly a century, another dog, Balto, has taken all the credit. To be fair, Balto is just a dog; he isn’t the one who wrote the stories and stole the glory. But it was Togo who deserved the recognition. It was his run.

I have a friend who was born so far north it makes Alaska look like Vermont. She grew up with a team of dog sled Huskies. As working dogs integral to their way of life, the dogs were very well-treated. But they weren’t pets. When the dogs had stopped being useful, they were “recycled” into furs the family could wear. Nothing is ever wasted up north. Though she’s lived “in the south” for a number of years now, it’s still a surprise to her how dogs have a much different role in a family’s life down here.

Togo is a working dog who crossed the line into Leonhard’s heart. He didn’t care if statues were erected in his memory, he just wanted to be Leonhard’s best pal. That’s the wonderful thing about dogs. They live and breathe for you. They fill your life with love and light. Disney knows this, and they’ve made voluminous trade in the dog movie business – but they’re not the ones who animated the lie that was Balto. If you’re interested in correcting this particular piece of history, or if you’re simply looking for a movie about a verygoodboy, you can find it now on Disney+.

Meet The Robinsons

Lewis is abandoned by his mother on the steps of an orphanage. By the age of 12, he’s been through over a hundred adoption interviews with no luck, so he spends his time on inventions that never quite work out. One day his school science fair is interrupted by two interlopers: a weird dude in a bowler hat, and a kid named Wilbur who claims to be visiting from the future. It seems like a pretty dubious claim until his space ship whisks them away.

In the future, Lewis meets the Robinson family, a wacky bunch of people he bonds with instantly. Which is too bad, because for the good of the space-time continuum, he really will have to go back.

This movie feels like it was designed by committee if that committee was a classroom full of kindergarteners shouting out their most favouritest things: robots! dinosaurs! food fights! And Disney’s feeling generous enough to stuff the movie with every last ounce of feedback it received, no idea too outlandish or sporadic to include. A story can be weaved around them all, and it involves time travel and one genius kid with big ideas.

It’s not the best film that Disney has to offer, but it’s got rapid-fire visual gags and a riot of crazy ideas and eccentric characters brought to life by some vivid animation. And eventually it circles back on sweet themes, like family and imagination, things you might expect that Walt himself would have been proud his legacy continues to endorse.

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

Part of watching and enjoying Home Alone is letting go of all the improbability and nonsense and just taking the film as it comes. My 6 year old nephew Ben watched it recently and had this to say about it:

We watched it too, and Sean reviewed it himself, though less adorably. I’m sure you know its premise: it’s about an 8 year old kid named Kevin (Macauley Culkin) (in the first take of the above video, Ben called him “Cameron” and I think it’s really funny that in the 30 years since this movie was released, it is now more common to know a Cameron than a Kevin) who accidentally gets left behind at home when his whole family takes a European vacation. His mother (Catherine O’Hara) struggles to get home to him while Kevin has quite an adventure thwarting two burglars (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci) from terrorizing his house. You really have to stretch the imagination to allow for an 8 year old’s prank assault on two hardened criminals, and his family’s supposed inability to have virtually any adult in the entire city of Chicago check in on him. But it’s fun.

Home Alone did such voracious box office that they couldn’t help but come out with a sequel. Now, it’s fairly common to leave a kid behind. My mom was vigilant and caring but with 4 daughters and a mini van that was often brimming with extra hangers-on, I myself was left behind as a kid and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one (were you? have you done it as a parent?). I was peeing when they left and wasn’t too distressed to find my family had disappeared. I knew right away what must have happened and didn’t panic. I’m sure my family came back for me within minutes. But I bet it’s even easier to forget a kid now, with parents splitting duties with different cars and different destinations. It happens. But really, has it ever happened that someone BOARDS A PLANE AND LEAVES THE COUNTRY without their kid? I realize this was pre-9/11, but there were still security measures. You still had to check your luggage and have your passport checked and your boarding pass printed and your carry-on scanned through security. How did they continually not notice their youngest was missing? The one that writer John Hughes has repeatedly pointed out is a troublemaker, a constant thorn in almost everyone’s side. Wouldn’t the silence have been a dead giveaway?

Anyway, Home Alone 2 asks us to believe that it has happened again. The very next year, Kevin’s family plan to spend Christmas in Florida. Kevin gets as far as the airport but is separated from the group but is somehow not missed. And wouldn’t you be extra vigilant after the first time? And despite airport security being a general thing, Kevin doesn’t just get left behind but in fact manages to board a flight to New York. And then has a whole vacation, checking himself into a swanky hotel with his dad’s credit card and going to town on room service. And if your incredulity was already meeting its limit, get this: the very same criminals who tried to rob him last year have just been released from prison and are headed for – you guessed it – New York City, which Kevin, though just a 9 year old boy, must defend with a very similar set of elaborate pranks, frankly enough to kill just about anyone and yet somehow not enough to discourage these two dimwits even though there isn’t a heist in the world that’s worth this aggravation.

This movie strikes me as incredibly dated, though I love seeing all these weird little relics of the past – a carbon paper credit card imprinter, a hotel room key that’s actually a key, a cameo by Donald Trump that nobody boos.

The thing that I feel is unforgivable? Kevin’s family have had a whole year to rehearse him in emergency protocol. Last year they were unprepared. Kevin could have made one call to a grandparent or a family friend or the goddamned police, and been done with it. Again, in New York, he decides to take on criminals himself rather than asking a grown-up for help. How dumb is this kid?

Home Alone 2 takes no chances, it simply replicates the first movie almost exactly, sometimes line for line, scene for scene. It’s more a remake than a sequel, but what the heck, give the people what they want!

[Note: Disney+ has announced plans to reboot the franchise. Jojo Rabbit‘s breakout star, Archie Yates, is set to star (not as Kevin McCallister, but as another neglected child), and Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney are also set to appear.]

[And another note: check out more of Ben’s reviews on Frozen 2 and Detective Pikachu.]

Galaxy’s Edge

We recently visited Disney World’s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios, where imagineers ingeniously have used 14 acres to create the village of Black Spire Outpost, on the wild frontier planet of Batuu. Batuu was mentioned in the novel Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances and Black Spire Outpost was very briefly referred to in Solo: A Star Wars Story, so while this planet on the “Outer Rim of the Unknown Regions” has technically always existed in the canon, it wasn’t already familiar to fans, allowing for a whole new Star Wars experience.

We spent several days exploring Galaxy’s Edge and we happened to come home on the very day that Disney was unveiling its new streaming service, Disney+, which means we immediately watched The Mandalorian and it was like we hadn’t left at all. Its sets made me realize just how much attention to detail is present on Batuu, in Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineers worked closely with LucasFilm and it honestly feels so immersive and convincing it’s like we might have stepped out of any one of the films, or indeed this new show. The team cited Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy as a basis for the architecture and aesthetic look of the land which does indeed feature 41m tall (135 foot) spires standing amongst the rockwork that are intended to be the petrified remains of massive trees of an ancient forest. Black Spire Outpost was once a thriving trading outpost which has more recently faded in importance, so it’s now the perfect kind of place for people to hide out, which means it’s crawling with smugglers, bounty hunters, and rogue adventurers  – hang around long enough and I’m sure you’ll witness an arrest. The town is run by the First Order of course, with a heavy storm-trooper presence, but there are knots of Resistance as well, so think twice about who you talk to. The parked is signed primarily in Batuu’s fictional Aurebesh  language and it stays true even when it comes to merchandising in Black Spire’s many shops and markets, which means you won’t find anything that’s branded Star Wars because “Star Wars’ doesn’t exist within Star Wars canon. But you will find a wooden storm trooper doll, or a card game native to the planet; a toy stall is run by an actual Toydarian. Even their Coke bottles don’t look the same.

The stuff going on in Black Spire Outpost while you’re there is said to be set between the most recent film, Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and the upcoming film and last in this trilogy, Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. You’ll find lots of familiar and impressive stuff – a TIE Echelon and THE Millennium Falcon chief among them. Using the Disney Play app on your phone, your ‘data pad’ remembers all of your Black Spire achievements and failures. If you do a less than stellar job on Smuggler’s Run (in which you fly the Millennium Falcon), it may cause problems for you when you visit the Cantina. Walking around the park will even sound like Star Wars thanks to John Williams’ score.

I can tell you all about it but really it needs to be seen, and to that end may I present Jay, Matt and Sean visit Galaxy’s Edge, frequent the Milk Stand for green and blue milk, find the Droid Depot to build a new R2 friend, ride Smuggler’s Run with increasing competence, hear the musical stylings of DJ 3-RX in Oga’s Cantina, and find out what a Ronto is. Plus Sean builds a custom light saber in Savi’s Workshop and is visited by Master Yoda himself.

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Beauty and The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

As it happens, the morning after I happened to meet ‘Enchanted Christmas’ Belle at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, my 3 year old niece was watching the movie at home. I’d never seen it myself, somewhat miraculously because my sisters seemed to watch it religiously when we were small. It’s nice to see that they’re indoctrinating their offspring on straight-to-video sequels so young.

My other sister’s kids were not so well versed on Beauty and the Beast lore, perhaps because they are boys. When we were at Disney with them back in February, we had a dinner reservation at the very hard-to-get Be Our Guest restaurant inside the Beast’s castle. The boys were nonplussed until Hollywood Studios generously put on their Beauty and the Beast musical and sped them up on the essentials – though I do stress essentials. It’s a lovely little stage show but it’s quite stripped down. Belle’s father Maurice is completely written out, and the Beast’s transition is so hasty that it seemed to go unnoticed by our two boys. Little Jack, who was teetering between 4 and 5 years old at the time, worried about our upcoming dinner with the Beast. “Does he know we’re coming?” he asked, worriedly. “Will he be mad?” “No, no,” I assured him, “now that he’s married he’s very domesticated, very calm and inviting, just like your dad when he makes spaghetti.” Once there, the Beast is in fact very much the gentleman, and the kids realized there was nothing to fear.

Meeting Enchanted Belle helped me to complete my Belle trilogy – blue dress, yellow dress, holiday dress. If you want to shower me with special prizes, go ahead. I’ve also met the Beast of course, and Gaston, who made me feel very much an old lady by being a young lad himself. In my mind, Gaston has always been, well, a man. But standing beside him made me think that perhaps I’m now…in my Maurice years? Dear god.

[Why does Gaston look like he’s trying to punch me in the tit?]

[When Matt told Gaston it was nice to meet him, Gaston, true to nature, replied “I know.”]

Anyway, shall we talk about the movie, perhaps?

At the end of Beauty & The Beast, the Beast has turned back into Prince Adam and the teapot and candlestick and so forth have all taken human form once again as well. However, to re-live the glory days (according to Disney’s pocketbooks – likely the servants who spent years as household objects would say otherwise), this movie flashes back to the Christmas they all spent together still under the spell. So Belle was still technically a prisoner with an on-again, off-again case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the furniture/servants hadn’t celebrated the holidays in years because the Beast had “forbidden” it.

Sadly Gaston does not appear as the antagonist; the part of “villain” is played by – and this is going to be as hard to hear as it is for me to write – an organ. An organ who takes credit for writing ‘Deck the Halls.’

So…not quite as beloved as the first, shall we say? That seems diplomatic. And perhaps so terrible an understatement as to be blatantly unfactual. Factually speaking. But, um, it was an honour to meet her in person!

Frozen II

Reviews for Frozen 2 were a bit mixed and I confess I didn’t exactly love the first one (was I the only one on the entire planet not to?). I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay for me. I didn’t even love the song. On our recent trip to Disney World, we met pretty much the whole Frozen crew but needed to attend a sing-along (where people definitely, enthusiastically sang along) to even remember some pretty big plot points from the movie, which came out in 2013 (for example, not one of us remembered trolls). Still, we dutifully brought back an Elsa dress for our 3 year old niece, who has caught Elsa fever (not the kind that produces snow boogies) like pretty much every little girl under 10 has at one time or another.

So of course we went to the see the film. The trailers looked…well, astonishing, frankly, real marvels of computer animation, if a little light on story. We tempered our expectations and emptied our bladders (it’s not really that long, just long for kids – nearly 2 hours with previews) and took our seats in a theatre packed with kids.

And you know what? I can’t speak for the kids, but I freaking loved it. Yes, the animation is, well, staggering. There was more than one moment when I had to convince my eyes that they were looking at cartoons, not real life. The cinematography is top-tier; the light design is dazzling. But, okay, throw all that aside: what about the story? You may have heard that it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, that it lacks drama because it doesn’t have a distinct villain. That the songs are a bit on the forgettable side. I think that’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Frozen II is more interesting, more complex, and more satisfying than the first one, perhaps because its themes are more mature, perhaps because instead of battling a bad guy, it turns inward, introspective. An enchanted forest is calling to Elsa, and though everyone fears what will happen if she opens Pandora’s box, she opens it anyway, exuberantly, after obsessing over it. Though she and Anna vow to go forth together, as a team, they inevitably part ways and both will be tested.

I laughed. I cried. I was surprised on several occasions by its bold and curious choices. There’s a musical number performed by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that inserts what I can only describe as a 1980s-style power ballad into the proceedings for no apparent reason. The number is done as if it’s an early MTV music video, all hokey and cheesy and wonderful because of it – clearly not aimed at children who will never know that the M in MTV once stood for music.

I felt that the first film espoused a fake kind of feminism – people applauded it while apparently failing to note that lots of male characters were still propping up the sisters. But in this film they simply do, and they do well, all by themselves, without anyone needing to point it out. You can tell the ladies are genuinely getting down to business because Elsa’s beautiful dress, already being marketed to little girls in stores, comes with slacks, making it easier for her to kick butt. Elsa seemed moody and bratty in the first, but here she’s a woman full of confidence, full of competence. And Anna knows her worth, magical powers or no.

Do any of the songs rival the powerhouse Let It Go? from the first film? How could they, really? Let It Go was an anomaly, one in a million. And then horribly overplayed and quite tedious. Still, several of the songs were quite good, if not quite as memorable, and performed by Broadway’s best, well, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

I don’t know what kids think of it (yet – my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece will see it tomorrow – and in 2 weeks, when that 3 year old niece turns 4, her aunt Jay will bring an Elsa cake to her birthday party) but I do know that I was impressed by it, entertained by it, moved by it. I said previously that the first Frozen felt more like a merchandising tool than a movie, destined to spawn straight-to-video sequels, so this is a rare occasion when I admit my mistake, and am humbled by it. Just a bit. 😉

This is my nephew Jack, who’s providing the kid perspective.

And my other nephew Ben.

It’s okay. You can tell me their reviews are better than mine. I know it. And I’m the proudest aunt.

Ben also has something to add to my Detective Pikachu review.

Assholes Drink Around The World

After nearly 2 weeks at Disney World, the Assholes have been deep in recovery mode. This video is the first in a series of answers to the question: Why?

 

 

Note: we’re not the first to accept the “Drink Around The World” challenge, or the last – let us know if you’ve attempted too.

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