Tag Archives: Disney

Disney Princess Yearbook

Disney has recently announced that Halle Bailey will play Ariel aka The Little Mermaid in its live-action remake, because that’s apparently a carousel we cannot get off of. I don’t really know who she is, but director Rob Marhsall assures me that she “possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice.” She sounds like a slam dunk. Of course, the internet had immediate thoughts based solely on the colour of her skin.

MUST Ariel be a pale-skinned redhead. Of course not. Just to be clear: Ariel is a mermaid, which is a thing that does not actually exist, and therefore cannot have an inherently ‘right’ race or hair colour. She’s made up! Disney animators based her appearance on Alyssa Milano, who is not a redhead, and they drew her flowing underwater hair based on Sally Ride in space, and she’s not a redhead either. In fact, the only reason Disney made Ariel a redhead at all was to distinguish her from Daryl Hannah in Splash. That’s it. That’s the whole reason. It was a frivolous choice, one that can easily be changed with absolutely zero consequence. I’m more perturbed by the rumours of Melissa McCarthy playing Ursula – and no, not because she isn’t purple, though I do hope the infinite wisdom of the collective internet sees fit to protest that as well. Ursula was based on Divine, a drag queen who did indeed live up to her name, and wouldn’t it be nice to keep up that tradition?

Anyway, Disney princesses skew heavily to white bread and wouldn’t it be nice to add some colour to the lineup? Still, Disney doesn’t take any risks with its bottom line. They’re not going to throw us a token POC bone, even if it is the right thing to do. They’re going to cast the absolute perfect person for the role because Disney wants to get paid. And if they’ve cast Bailey, it’s because she’s the best.

And now for the rest:

Best Hair

Rapunzel has 70 feet of hair; at 100000 strands per head, her hair weighs over 10 pounds!
Pixar developped a software program specifically to animate Merida’s hair.

Cutest Couple

Aladdin throws an apple to Jasmine several times throughout the movie, including when they fly over Greece on the magic carpet ride. In ancient Greece, throwing an apple to a woman is considered a marriage proposal.

Although Vanelloppe and Ralph are not a romantic couple, they are BFFs, as evidenced by their necklace.

Best Dressed

Belle’s blue dress and white apron combo were inspired by Dorothy, in Wizard of Oz. She’s the only villager to wear blue. Gaston, the villain, wears red – as does the Beast when she first meets him (his cape). But as he softens he wears purple, and finally blue and gold, which reflects both of her dresses.

According to art and fashion historians, Cinderella’s dress that the stepsister tear apart is thought to be inspired by the designs of Salvador Dalí and the magical gown is in the then contemporary style of Christian Dior.

Most Badass:

Sean goes with Fa Mulan, a strong choice since Mulan was the first animated Disney film to deal with warfare. Her fight choreography was done by real-life martial artists Mimi Chan and George Kee. Mulan has (by far) the highest body count of any Disney hero – or villain.

Jay’s pick is not exactly Disney princess canon, but we think Gamora qualifies, and she’s definitely a badass – the deadliest woman in the galaxy, in fact.

Most Ambitious

Sean’s pick, Ariel, wants legs and love – possibly in that order. Princess Leia on the other hand wants to save the galaxy. Again. She wants peace, and she wants hope. But then again, she already has legs.

Coolest Sidekick

This one might be too close to call. Sean’s pick, Mulan, has a tiny dragon named Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy!) while Jasmine has a motherfucking pet tiger, bitches!

Best Car

Sean goes with Cinderella’s pumpkin coach – sure Fairy Godmother pimped her ride, but it’s still got an expiry date. Jasmine, however, is riding in style on a SENTIENT magic carpet.

Biggest Flirt

Sean goes with Cinderella yet again, and yes, ho is hustling. You might even say she’s gold digging. But Snow White’s in bed with 7 men!

Class Clown

Sean goes with Tangled’s Rapunzel, while I went with Frozen’s Anna, who just has big goofball energy.

Life of the Party

Sean knows he can’t go wrong with Merida from Brave. Her clan seems to celebrate in style. I went with Elsa since she has plenty of what every good party needs most: ice!

Most Likely to become president

Snow White clearly has the constituents but I think Moana’s got the political ambition.

Most likely to get catfished

100%, in ever sense of the word.

Most accident prone

I concede that even with 16 years notice, Aurora manages to snag her finger on that damned spindle, but Merida accidentally turned her mother into a bear. This might be the saddest contest yet.

Most opinionated

Interestingly, I think Sean and I are after the same thing here: Moana holds her own against Maui, while Gamora never lets Starlord get a word in.

Most upbeat

Upon reflection, none of the princesses are as carefree as you’d think. Cinderella is overworked, Jasmine’s trying to avoid an arranged marriage to an older man with unfortunate facial hair, Belle is a kidnap victim, Pocahontas is being colonized, Mulan has been conscripted…it’s not all tea and crumpets. Sean and I both chose Snow White, perhaps for her ability to sing under any circumstances.

Most likely to make millions

Sean went with Jasmine, who, granted, does come from oil money. Probably. But Tiana has the makings of a celebrity chef. Or she could franchise!

Most likely to star in her own reality show

Truthfully, most of these princesses could probably be on 16 & Pregnant about 5 minutes after their movies end, but aside from that, Sean goes with Mulan, and I’m not sure why. I went with Rapunzel because she’s thirsty enough to be a desperate housewife.

Most likely to be famous on instagram

Sean’s choice, Cinderella, is definite Insta-worthy. She’d be a big hit on the gram: she’s got the dresses, the cute pets, and those step-sisters could certainly teach her a good duck face. But I think Ariel’s got too much hipster potential.

Brainiest

 

Advertisements

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms

You’d think I’d have more of an affinity for this, as I once played Clara myself, in a school production. But I suppose any kinship I felt with the role died when I saw film-Clara flopping around in one sumptuous, gauzy, beaded gown after another, while I spent the whole play in a floor-length flannel nightgown.

Clara (Mackenzie Foy) has recently lost her mother, Marie. She is further aggrieved to find that the “one last Christmas gift” her mother has left each of the children is for her rather useless without a key to open it. Her godfather (Morgan Freeman) would seem to hold the answer, but just as she finds the key at his home, it is squirreled away (or perhaps I should say moused away) into a parallel world – into which of course she follows, without a second thought to the state of her beautiful dress, which she clearly doesn’t deserve.

Anyway, this other world is apparently one of her mother’s making, imaginatively speaking. There are four realms, and she meets 3 of the 4 regents right off the bat: Shiver (Richard E. Grant) of the Land of Snowflakes, Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) of the Land of Flowers, and of course the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) of the Land of Sweets. These three regents worship Clara as the daughter of their beloved Queen Marie, and wail upon learning news of her death. They confess that the Queen has not been around in sometime, and these 3 realms are at war with the fourth: Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) of the Land of Amusements.

Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley, using a grating Mickey Mouse voice and sporting drag queen eyebrows for unknown reasons) explains that they can use Marie’s machine, which turns toys into people, to win the war, but they need the key. Yes, the very same key that Clara is already hunting, the key stolen by the legion of mice and now in the possession of evil Mother Ginger. Clara must retrieve the key with only the help of a kind nutcracker named Philip (Jayden Fowara-Knight).

The Nutcracker is of course famously a ballet, and there is but a single scant scene of dance, starring the ephemeral Misty Copeland, which is probably the best stuff in the movie. The rest is really nothing special. It’s almost as if, the more they inflate it with CGI effects, the more magic leaks out. It’s drained of the life and wonder you may have come to expect from The Nutcracker. This one is clunky – often quite mesmerizing to look at, but the directors are depending on literal hypnotic focus on the visuals since the story, which diverges wildly from cannon, just doesn’t hold up. It’s almost amazing how unexciting a land of imagination can be made to feel, and I wouldn’t mind if co-directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston both had their directors cards revoked for such a failure. It’s toys come to life: the wonder is baked right in!

The Nutcracker has been around since 1892 and now accounts for 40% of a typical ballet company’s annual revenues. It’s been done to death in both movies and television: Barbie did a version. The Care Bears did a version. Mickey and Minnie did a version. Tom and Jerry did a version. And they were ALL more successful that this one, which cost over $120M to make, but you can’t put a price on heart, and this movie just didn’t have it.

Toy Story 4

Toy Story movies have always been darker than people give them credit for. In the first film, Buzz believes himself to be a hero stranded in a hostile environment. Turns out, he’s just a toy – everything he thought was real is a lie. He exists to be someone’s plaything, and Woody and the gang convince him that there’s dignity and even nobility in this fate, even if it strikes you and I as a kind of slavery, to exist merely at someone else’s whim, until you’re all used up, and then you’re disposed of. What a dizzying and disorienting concept; it’s no wonder Buzz literally gets depressed when he learns his true nature. In the second film, Woody literally contemplates his own mortality. His benevolent master Andy will one day tire of him, and worthless, he’ll be discarded. His friend Jessie really hammers this home with a heart-wrenching flashback of being abandoned at the side of a road by someone who once claimed to love her. Ultimately, Woody chooses to live as a toy rather than achieving a sort of immortality as a collector’s item; he’ll have a short but meaningful life rather than a long but insignificant one. What a choice. In the third film, Woody and the gang face the consequence of this choice: Andy goes off to college, and eventual abandonment becomes actual abandonment. Not only that, but the best friends are being separated, with Woody being doomed to spend his twilight years alone on Andy’s shelf, no longer a useful, loved plaything, but a mere relic of his past. Meanwhile, his friends are going to molder up in the dark oblivion of an attic. What cold comfort. Luckily, the toys are instead given to a little girl named Bonnie to live out a happy afterlife. Cue the fourth film.

Woody (Tom Hanks) and pals are having a grand old time being played with by Bonnie. Sure, the little girl prefers cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) over cowboy Woody just a tad, but still, it’s a good life, no complaints. Bonnie is starting kindergarten soon, and at an orientation session, she shows some initiative (fancy term for not following instructions) and makes herself a toy out of trash rather than a pencil cup out of art supplies. She brings her cherished new friend home and gives him a place of honour among toys. “Forky” is no more than a spork, some googly eyes, a pipe cleaner, and a broken popsicle stick, but he’s Bonnie’s new best friend, so Woody vows to keep them together at all costs. That’s going to be a problematic promise because a) Bonnie’s family is embarking on an RV roadtrip and b) Forky has some suicidal tendencies. Forky was never supposed to be a toy, you see. He’s trash. He knows he’s trash. Rather simple-minded and fairly spooked, all he wants more than anything in the world is to be trash once again, which is where he keeps launching himself. Woody keeps dutifully fishing him out, but one of these times he’s bound to get thrown out for good. It’s on one such rescue mission that Woody encounters an antique store where he thinks he may find an old friend/lost toy/love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts). We haven’t seen Bo Peep since the second movie, which was 20 years ago. Where has she been this whole time?

Bo’s been living free and wild as a toy with no owner. That’s essentially Woody’s worst nightmare but she makes it sound rather grand. Besides, Woody has a new worst nightmare: another antique store occupant, vintage doll Gabby Gabby wants his voicebox and she’s prepared to rip the stuffing out of his chest to get it. Yikes!

Structurallly, this fourth installment plays out a lot like those that came before it. There’s always some kind of separation, and then some kind of secondary rescue mission when the first one fails. These toys sure do get themselves into some high-stakes situations on an alarming basis!

It’s wonderful to see the cast of old friends: Bo looks shinier than ever, and Jessie’s hair has never looked yarnier. The animation on these films started out innovative and has only improved. And new friends are a hoot and a half: Forky (Tony Hale) is a walking, talking existential crisis, but the rendering of his pipe cleaner is photo realistic. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) was a dollie defective right out of the box, and her resulting failure to bond has really warped her. Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) is a Canadian daredevil who never lived up to his promise; he is haunted by his past, and by the kid who resoundingly rejected him. Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) are two brightly-coloured stuffed animals attached at the hands. They’ve been unredeemed carnival prizes for far too long, and are a little unhinged. Officer Giggle McDimples, Giggs for short (Ally Maki), may look precious and pocket-sized, but she’s a force to be reckoned with, and fiercely protective of her road warrior partner, Bo Peep. All these new toys will come together in surprising ways to give our pal Woody one last big adventure.

Coming full circle with the original film in the franchise which was released 24 years ago, Toy Story 4 has Woody once again paired with a toy who does not believe himself to be a toy. Woody’s experiences with Andy, and now with Bonnie, position him to a real advocate for finding and fulfilling one’s purpose and embracing one’s destiny. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in almost equal measure (I cried twice before the opening credits were over, and then alllllll the way home), Toy Story 4 more than justifies its existence. But after the perfect send-off in #3, is #4 a necessary or worthy addition? As much as I looked forward to connecting with these characters again, I surprise myself by saying no. Toy Story 4 is a good movie, an entertaining one, a very sweet one, but I can’t help but wish they’d left it at a trilogy so that we could have one perfect, shiny thing in our lives.

Aladdin (2019)

Maybe it’s just time we admit that no remake, perhaps especially a live-action remake, will live up to the extremely high bar set by the animated films of our youth. Not only were these movies straight out of Disney’s renaissance, they are coated in the glittery gold of nostalgia, elevated by the place they had in our lives at the time, rendered flawless and important in our cherished memories. It’s an impossible standard, is what I’m saying. That said, Aladdin is probably among the better ones.

As you know, Aladdin isn’t really about Aladdin. Oh sure, it’s ostensibly about a boy wooing and trying to be worthy of a princess. And about a greedy man who’ll stop at nothing to gain power. But really it’s about a genie trapped in a lamp, longing to be free. Robin Williams 110% stole the first movie. His ad-libbed sessions in the recording studio had Disney re-writing the script to accommodate all of his beautiful material. These were agl0580.pcomp_publicity.v02.1039_grd004.000000.0immense blue shoes to fill, so in a way, I admire the impulse to steer the ship in a different direction, as Will Smith IS a different direction – though not as different as I’d imagined. He makes the character his own, for better or worse, but the fact that this film is such a close remake means inevitably you’ll be comparing movies and this one will be coming up short. It can’t quite recapture the magic, especially when we know every word and anticipate every action. And Will Smith’s Genie is a dull cousin of Williams’. This is not entirely Smith’s fault – who among us could compete with the limitless freedom of a cartoon? Animated Genie is just that – animated. At all freaking times. Will Smith can’t even touch the manic energy of the original, and frankly, his songs leave a little to be desired. I’d heard that his remake of Friend Like Me would be largely hip-hop inspired, but I heard wrong. But it may have been the wiser choice; if you’re going to fail by comparison, then do something to distinguish yourself. The 2019 version is fairly faithful to the original – it has all the basics but none of the colour.

Well, I don’t meant that literally. In fact, that’s one of the things I liked best about the movie: the absolute riot of colour. Jewel tones abound! The colours of spice fill up the screen, sometimes metaphorically but sometimes quite literally. Jasmine’s costumes are the stuff little girls’ dreams are made of. In animation, it’s too expensive to have different outfits for characters, so they mostly wear just on the one thing, a cartoon uniform if you will. And Jasmine’s is no joke. But in the live-action remake, costumers have given themselves permission to create a wardrobe befitting a princess. It’s a feast for the eyes.

I mentioned before that the 2019 film is fairly faithful to the original and that’s true – but there are a few exceptions, and I’m glad that Jasmine is one of them. In the 1992 feature, Jasmine is a passive character. Yes, she’s 15, but she’s very much a damsel in distress. That’s not quite the character the writers meant to portray, but several scenes in which she was to exercise her voice were cut because they were simply too expensive to animate. That decision saved production budget but cost Jasmine something in character. In 2019, she’s a fuller version of herself. Of course, that’s partially because you’ll find her singing a song you don’t recognize (called Speechless – it’s Disney’s bid at an Oscar this year, as only original, written-for-this-movie songs qualify).

Speaking of which: Jasmine and Aladdin. I hereby give you permission to get your Aladdin thirst on. I mean, maybe you’ve always had a certain lustful feeling toward the MV5BZTc3NTA1YmEtZTkyNy00ZDMyLWJkMmItODFkYjU0MTc2N2I0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQxNjcxNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1233,1000_AL_street rat with the not little nipple-less bod. Now he’s played by the very attractive Mena Massoud, who conveys all of his boyishness and charm. Jasmine, meanwhile, is portrayed by  the lovely Naomi Scott. Since cartoon Jasmine is 80% doe eyes, you might think she’d be difficult to replace. In fact, Scott is everything you could ever want in a Jasmine, now with 50% more agency. And unlike Will Smith’s renditions, everything Scott and Massoud sing sounds like the soundtrack of your childhood. You’ll find it difficult not to sing along. Why resist, really? Someone has to be the crazy lady in each and every movie theatre, and it may as well be you.

Director Guy Ritchie brings an energy to the film that’s quite unexpected. I mean, he’s made a career putting hustlers on the big screen, and who is Aladdin if not that? And those were Sean’s favourite scenes: Aladdin deftly avoiding arrest in the streets of Agrabah, streets he knows well, like the back of his hand. He  navigates those in the slight elevation above reality – quick, slick, agile. My favourite scenes, however, were the colourful spectacles I didn’t know Ritchie was capable of. Will Smith’s Genie introduces Prince Ali to Agrabah with fanfare that’s nothing short of visually stunning. It’s choreographed to within an inch of its life, with a rainbow of costumes and a riot of feathers and dancing girls and exotic animals.

Aladdin is a lot of fun if you let it be. It is not the Aladdin of your childhood, but there’s enough room for both of them. Now go be the crazy lady in your local cinema.

 

The Lion King (1994)

Disney is releasing a whole slew of “live action” remakes of its most beloved classics, so Sean and I are taking a stroll through the Disney vault to revisit movies we haven’t seen since childhood. So far, the only one of these that I’ve genuinely enjoyed is Cinderella; the others – like Beauty & The Beast, Mary Poppins, and Dumbo – have missed the mark, and I downright disliked The Jungle Book. And unfortunately, I’ve tended to assume that I’ll feel the same about The Lion King, mostly because I don’t approve of calling this “live action” when it’s clearly also animated, just animated in a more realistic, CGI-style. But it’s still just computers. In real life, lions don’t sing and dance and cuddle up to warthogs in a strictly platonic, non-hungry way. BUT it does have an AMAZING voice cast that I admit intrigues me. More on that later.

The Lion King (1994) doesn’t need improving upon. It’s quite a lovely film. The animation holds up. The songs are part of our cultural lexicon. We all know the story: Simba is a young lion prince who will won day rule the pride lands when his father Mufasa passes. But Mufasa’s death is hastened by evil uncle Scar, who wants the seat of power for himself. Scar murders his brother and exiles his nephew. He giphyallows his pals the hyenas to share hunting grounds with the lion tribe, which totally fucks with the circle of life, and pretty soon they’re all starving. Meanwhile, Simba has grown up with a sweet gay couple, Timon and Pumbaa, who adopt him despite their initial misgivings about him being a meat eater and all. Their worry-free existence is pretty sweet until Simba’s past shows up to shame him into returning. And once he knows how bad things are, he can’t help but engage. He returns, but he’ll have to face his uncle Scar if he wants to take his rightful place as King.

As a kid I didn’t pick up on the Shakespearean undertones of this film because I was just a dumb, Sesame Street watching baby. It’s definitely Hamlet-adjacent. But as an adult, I have so many more experiences that are informing my viewing.

Like any good Canadian who often escapes the winter by going down south, I first saw The Lion King musical experience at an all-inclusive resort where they pirate 1Vzuthe heck out of anything they can and squeeze it until the lawsuits come. The first time I saw it, it was an excellent production (I think I was in Mexico). It made me want to see the real Broadway version, so when it came to my city, I saw it with my in-laws, and it was even better than I’d imagined. Then I saw several low-rent versions at less ambitious resorts – my favourite at a Cuban hotel where my friends got married and their young daughter was cast as the baby Simba.

Hakuna Matata (such a wonderful phrase!) was a full-on craze in the 90s. People cross-stitched it onto pillows. Nothing trendier than that! It means “no worries for the rest of your days” and was lampooned by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in The Book of Mormon. In that Broadway musical, which Sean and I were lucky enough to see with its original cast, Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells), the phrase they pick up is Hasa Diga Eebowai. It inspires its own musical number which is every bit as perky and upbeat as Hakuna Matata – only imagine the little Mormons’ consternation when they find out it means Fuck You, God. Oops.

Last month Sean and I took the niece and nephews to see Disney on Ice, and they  had quite the generous Lion King portion, no doubt to generate interest for a movie hitting theatres later this year. But the original film is also celebrating its 25th anniversary, and sure, you could figure that out with simple math, but we found it out at Disney World, where they’d outfitted Animal Kingdom with photo ops celebrating it. We also frolicked at the animation hotel, where an entire branch of the resort is dedicated to the film, its rooms are movie-inspired and the grounds are full of scenes from the movie. I turned to Sean and said: “Hey, remember when YOU played in an elephant graveyard?” and I kid you not, he responded “At the hotel?” Now, like most (all) men, Sean is an idiot. But he’s also the King of Stupid Questions. Now let me ask you, perfect stranger: how many times do you think Sean has played in an elephant graveyard? We’re CANADIAN. I think the fact that he’s done it once is remarkable. Why, then, the clarifying question, as if he’s done it so many times he’s not even sure to which one I’m referring. Hasa Diga Sean.

When Scar undertakes to kill his brother, he orchestrates the murder so that it looks like an accident. He plants Simba in a gorge and then sparks a wildebeest stampede. It’s a frantic, pulse-pounding scene that took 3 years and the invention of new software to animate the thing. Musafa of course saves his son, but Scar pushes him to his death. In the aftermath, little Simba finds his father’s body and curls up next to it, wrapping his father’s dead paws around him. It’s a very tender scene of course, but it reminds me of my nephew and something he once said. This kid loves his family and insists he’ll never marry and never move out – he simply can’t imagine a time when he won’t be vitally attached to his parents. He’s even insisted that when he dies, he wants to be buried in his father’s arms. These are soul-destroying words to his sensitive aunt’s heart. I wept over it then, and I wept over it again when Simba all but reenacts the scene.

So there’s no doubt, really, that Scar must be among Disney’s very worst villains. But there’s a secret (or not so secret) side to Scar that I never considered as a kid. The LGBTQ community has adopted him as a coded-gay character. Of course it’s problematic as hell because he’s a reprehensible guy, but when you were gay in the giphy (1)90s, you didn’t exactly have a lot of choice. Scar IS slightly effeminate, I suppose. And he’s camp. He’s snide. He slinks around. He has a goatee! He’s scrupulously correct and he’s British for christ’s sake. Is he a mean old Queen? Possibly. He’s definitely the bachelor uncle who, while inheriting his brother’s kingdom, has absolutely no interest in the pride’s lionesses. He spends his time with a singing parrot. So when people saw the trailer for the “live action” Lion King, fans of Scar were dismayed. In the cartoon he comes off as very vain and very feline, but in the trailer for the new one, he just looks emaciated. Anyway. I think we can do better than Scar for gay icons, but so far Disney really hasn’t. There’s a void there, and a gaunt, bedraggled Scar isn’t going to fill it.

Anyway. Jon Favreau’s The Lion King will hit theatres in July, with James Earl Jones providing continuity as the voice of Mufasa but Jeremy Irons has been replaced as Scar – and so has everyone else.

Simba: Donald Glover

Nala: Beyonce

Scar: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Pumbaa: Seth Rogen

Timon: Billy Eichner

Zazu: John Oliver

So it’s not The Lion King of your childhood. But might it still be good?

Aladdin (1992)

Of course I watched Aladdin when I was little. Disney’s renaissance era was such a great time to be kid: The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. Instant classics, all. I remember my aunt giving my little sister Jana a pair of Princess Jasmine pajamas – gauzy and midriff-bearing. They were an instant source of jealousy (we were four little girls, but Jana was the smallest and the blondest and the default cutest, and I suppose the rest of us felt that our chubby little bellies were not deemed worthy).

MV5BMTYwODYyMzY5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1710,1000_AL_But I hadn’t watched Aladdin since I was young, on VHS, naturally. On DVD I’ve fallen in love all over again with the movie. Gosh it’s crisp, the animation looks beautiful. I find that I still know every word to every song (it probably helps that I have the soundtrack on vinyl).

It’s a sad story if you stop to think about it: Aladdin is a homeless youth who is so hungry he resorts to stealing even though the punishment is having your hand chopped off. Jasmine, the resident princess, has never been hungry a day in her life, but is far more eager to escape her life of confinement in the castle and the pressure to marry a prince before her next birthday (at which time she turns all of 16). The two meet in the market where they also get in some trouble. Jafar, the nefarious vizier to the sultan, tells Jasmine that Aladdin has been executed (to death!), but actually he’s going to use him to break into the Cave of Wonders and steal the magic lamp.

As you know, Aladdin does get his hands on the lamp, and imagine his surprise when out pops a big blue genie (voiced by Robin Williams). Genie turns Aladdin into a prince so he can court and marry Jasmine, but there’s a lesson in there about being your true self, and the lesson must be taught.

Anyway, Robin Williams recorded his part while on breaks from Hook and Toys. He’d call up Steven Spielberg, who was filming Schindler’s List at the time, and make him and the cast and crew have a much-needed laugh. So much of the movie was ad-libbed by Williams, it no longer qualified for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars. Not that anyone complained: animators literally added whole scenes just because Williams said something too brilliant not to use.

Robin Williams was reluctant to even do the movie. He wanted to try his hand at voicing an animated character but he balked at the whole Disney merchandising machine. Eventually he agreed to do the film for scale (!) on the condition that his voice not be used for merchandising, and that the Genie not take up more than 25% of space on posters, billboards, and trailers. The idiots at Disney did not abide his rules so Williams was actually mad at them for years. Michael Eisner even tried to apologize to him with a Picasso, but Williams turned it down. Only when Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired and replaced by Joe Roth did things thaw: Roth apologized publicly.

If Jasmine and Aladdin look familiar to you, you’re not wrong: Jasmine was modeledMV5BMTgzNDI3ODUyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1416,1000_AL_ after Jennifer Connelly, and Aladdin after Tom Cruise, which has to make you wonder – does Tom Cruise not have nipples either? I met Princess Jasmine recently. I was having dinner at Cinderella’s castle (at Disney World), and quite a few princesses drop by to say hello. She asked me if Sean was my diamond in the rough and I must have scrunched up my nose quite skeptically because she amended it to “Diamond in the scruff?” – in fact, Sean has a no-razors-on-vacation policy, so I let that one stand even though it wasn’t the rough I objected to.

Anyway, we gave this one a re-watch because Guy Ritchie is doing a live-action remake hitting theatres later this month (May 24). Although I was disappointed by both Mary Poppins Returns and Dumbo (both of which I’d hoped would be good but weren’t quite) already this year, I’m going to go ahead and reserve some moderately-sized hope for this one. They can’t all be bad, right?

 

Dumbo (2019)

Since the original Dumbo is only 60 minutes long, it was inevitable that Tim Burton’s 2019 update would veer from the scant story line of the first.

Max Medici (Danny De Vito) is the owner of a rinky dink circus where little Dumbo is born and immediately considered a monstrosity, despite the fact that our eyes tell us that between his big, sad, blue eyes and his soft, floppy ears, CGI Dumbo is perhaps even cuter than his hand-drawn cousin. A couple of kids, Millie and Joe Farrier, befriend Dumbo and together they discover he can fly. Their father Holt (Colin Farrell), a former trick pony rider and current one-armed vet, cares for the elephants but isn’t particularly warm to them, or to his own motherless children. When Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is in the middle of an incident, she is labelled ‘mad’ and sold away. This is the straw that broke the circus’s back. It gets eaten up by a new amusement park called Dreamland, owned by Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and featuring the beautiful Colette (Eva Green).

As you can tell by cast alone, all the trappings of a Tim Burton movie are there, but sadly, almost none of the magic.

MV5BMTk3YzY3NmEtODExNy00ZGY5LTk3ZGYtMGUxOTlmN2Q2MTcxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzk5MTY4MTU@._V1_The first thing working against it, at least in my mind, is a circus scene in the movie Big Fish. It’s only a small part of the movie but it’s completely wonderful. Shouldn’t the wonder just multiply when set entirely at the circus? But no. Things start off relatively well at DeVito’s flea circus, but once it gets swallowed up by the soulless Dreamland, things go off the rails.

Second, I despised seeing Dumbo ridden. Dumbo is a flying baby elephant. Isn’t that enough? But no: 2019 needs to subjugate his whimsy by physically climbing aboard. It also doesn’t help that the sight of Eva Green on Dumbo’s back is some of the worst CGI work in the movie.

Mostly though, the movie just doesn’t feel coherent. Dumbo isn’t really even the star. Burton decided against the whole talking animal schtick, and while that makes sense for a live-action remake, it means a lot of improvised human characters and actor egoes who need screen time and dialogue and character arcs.

But when Dumbo himself is on the screen, the movie puffs its little chest and feels bigger for just a moment. Dumbo is irresistible, particularly in his clown makeup. My heart practically grows arms that yearn to embrace the poor little guy. Unfortunately, this little heart of mine just can’t quite make its way to liking this movie. It has everything going for it but the sum isn’t more than the parts. The sum is messy, and a little cold. Burton’s Dumbo is BYOH – bring your own heart.