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Monday, September 28, 2015

My Favorite Disney Princess Film Openings Countdown

My Favorite: "When You Wish Upon A Star" Score into the Whistle as the Castle Builds Itself Magically, Ending with Walt's Signature Logo
I actually really love the original fairy tale concept of the Disney Princesses and their films and I love the openings that give a more magical and fairy tale kind of feel to them. (By the way, I am primarily trying to stick to the first 2-4 minutes.) So here is my ranking of the DP film openings, I hope you guys enjoy this light read! :D

12. Frozen: Frozen Heart/Ice Opening
I personally found this to be uninteresting and irrelevant to the film's magic, fairy tale and princesses (mostly) in the film. No explanation of how Elsa got powers. Gorgeous Aurora Borealis but everything else was a bit boring. Where are Kristoff's parents? Why are the iceworkers totally comfortable with a young boy and his reindeer running around without parents? What do these iceworkers have anything to do with the story other than Kristoff and Sven hanging out with them until the Trolls take them in? Confusing opening with beautiful landscapes but no real relativity to the story, unfortunately.

11. Tangled: Eugene's Narration
I do not like the idea of Eugene narrating 1%. His attitude in the narration only proves to me that he never really did change to become some valiant gentleman by the end of the film, he was still pretty selfish and not the most decent guy. On top of it, his personality really took away from the "magic" of the narration to me. He didn't compliment Rapunzel at all in the beginning, I wish he would've called her a "beautiful" girl or something like that since he's supposed to be a better man now and in love with her. The story of how the magic sun drop fell to a flower was also pretty lame to me. Why did Mother Gothel need to sing to the flower but the Queen of Corona was able to just drink it? Why did the soldiers ever give up looking for Rapunzel? She is a kidnapped princess! I did like that it at least gave the introduction to the story though whereas Frozen's opening did not.

10. Pocahontas: "Virginia Company"
I like the way it starts with "Virginia Company" and shows how the Europeans were expanding, growing and exploring but it was more of a legendary introduction to John Smith than Pocahontas. I did like how they showed Smith saving Thomas though and that it was relevant later when the men would speak highly of Smith and trust him over Ratcliffe.

9. Mulan: Script Titles & Great Wall of China/Intro to Shan Yu
I like the script on the paper and the overture in the background. It is nice but not super captivating or magical to me. I did like the transition from the drawn great wall to the animated great wall. I will say this opening really presented it's villain the best and as the "big bad evil" brilliantly. This was a nice set up for what Mulan and China were up against. Not very "magical" though as it overall is more of a poetic fantasy story rather than magical fairy tale story. I do love the way the Emperor says that "one grain of rice can tip the scale" which also sets the scene for individuals (Mulan) making a difference and fighting for others beyond just themselves.

8. Aladdin: "Arabian Nights" and Merchant's Tale
Love the "Walt Disney Productions" opening as the picture in the top of this blog explains. I like the desert music which provides a very mysterious feel and splendor. The colors of the desert are also used in a very visually pleasing manner. I love the opening song and think it did a decent job capturing the feel and cultural atmosphere of the film. Aladdin never really deals with the desert heat outside of the town though, and the "Arabian heat" is never really mentioned beyond the opening song. I do love the merchant played by Robin Williams though as I think he did a great job introducing the story. It's been mentioned before - and I agree - that the merchant should also have closed out the story or turned into the Genie to make him more relevant. The lack of full relevancy of this song and merchant keeps this from being higher. I do enjoy the tale of the "diamond in the rough" though.

7. Princess and the Frog: "Evening Star" Princess Frog Reading & Gumbo Soup Sharing
I love the "Evening Star" song and think it sounds absolutely beautiful the way it is sung. I also love the way it starts with Tiana's mom being active in her life, reading her a story. I thought this was a really neat and clever way to put a modern spin while keeping the "fairy tale" feel to the story. I also really liked the way it introduced us not only to the fairy tale we were dealing with, The Frog Prince, but also really introduced us to Tiana's (and Charlotte's) character and views towards romance and love. Seeing Tiana as a small child was also very endearing as well. Her father was such an inspiring character and the family scene back at Tiana's home was a really positive and captivating opening.

6. Beauty and the Beast: Prologue
Where do I start? The gorgeous opening landscape with the castle in the background was an awesome touch. The haunting yet beautiful and mysterious-sounding score is magnificent. I love the use of the windows to show the curse of the Beast as well as the introduction into the fairy tale we were about to experience. I love the introduction of the "enchanted rose" as well which is very iconic of Disney magic. I also love the way it was a subtle introduction to Belle's character by saying "Beauty is found skin deep" and "for who could ever learn to love a beast?" then started playing Belle's song and showed Belle's sweet, honest and down-to-earth character after the opening title card (which I adore❤). I don't like that there is never an explanation for what happened to Beast's parents though... (or Belle's mother.)

5. The Little Mermaid:
I love the score in this! I love the use of showing simple scenes out on the open water in nature (especially the dolphins❤). I love how the song "Mysterious Fathoms Below" introduces us to the tales of mermaids. I greatly enjoy the introduction to Eric's character as well: sound and logic enough to not know the wifty sailor stories but loyal and in love with the sea enough to appreciate the "salty sea air" and "wind on [his] face". I absolutely adore the opening after the fish gets safely back to the ocean though. The score, the colors, the splendor! I love seeing all of the ocean life and the introduction to the mermaids and Atlantica City. It had all of the right feel of magical, mysterious, great splendor and overall unique and fun. I thought it was a great way to introduce us to the world of "mermaids"! ❤

4. Brave:
The absolute most adorable Disney Princess as a child ever! I love how this opening incorporates so many wonderful things... Good score and gorgeous scenery. Active, loving, devoted and protective parents raising their adorable princess daughter together and spending time like a family. I cant get over how insanely adorable and cute Merida is as a child, her excitement at the bow and little voice at "I missed" and "I saw a wisp!" are too cute to overlook. I also love the introduction of magic here, through the princess's child eyes! How brilliant! I love seeing the fascination in Merida's big eyes and little voice as well as the fact that the magic here was leading her as an innocent child to safety, back to her parents. Finally, I like the introduction of the villain without the infamous "losing a parent" scene that Disney has done before. It was beautiful to see Merida's parents so active in trying to protect her without the audience having to go through those Disney heartbreaking openings like Fox & the Hound or Bambi etc.

3. Cinderella:
My favorite types of openings admittedly are the classic ones with the overture melody mix of the scores visited in the film as well as the beautiful fairy tale books that made me feel like I was about to jump into the fairy tale story. I love the introduction song telling of Cinderella's grace even though she's dressed in rags. I also love the opening narration that tells us about what Cinderella has had to deal with up to this point and how valiant she is for not losing her optimism through it all.

2. Sleeping Beauty:
I ADORE the songs and score to this movie so I find this overture to be the absolute most pleasing to the ears. I love it! ❤ I also love the colors used for the credit backdrops during the overture. I love how this not only jumps from the overture to the beautiful book to read the fairy tale but that the narrator reads the beginning of the story to us. I think it's a neat touch. :D I love seeing the pages from the fairy tale book! I also like how the narrator gives us a little bit more info than the pages so it's like we're getting the "inside scoop" on the fairy tale. I especially love the way the camera zooms into the picture from the book and transitions into the film.

1. Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs:
I love the overture in this song and the way it sets up for the film. I adore the opening shot where Walt Disney thanks his team for making this production available. I love the way the titles go into the book to introduce us into our princess, villain and fairy tale and we get to read the opening pages before diving into the details of the story. I also love how this shows how cultured America used to be. The film starts off with the opening of the book, many colors used in the writing, classical music for the score/overture and no narration so that the children are expected to be able to read or watch with their parents so their parents can read it to them. I love that subtle family/kid stuff. ❤

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miss Disney Role Model: Who Is The Most Charming Of Them All? Part 1/2 (Updated with Moana)

"A girl need not have perfect features nor an outstanding figure to be popular. But she should have charm. As Sir James Barrie had Maggie say in his play, What Every Woman Knows, 'If you have it, you don't need to have anything else; and if you don't have it, it doesn't much matter what else you have.'"

The most timeless, iconic women usually stand out because of their charm. Women like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy have stood the test of time as role models because of their charming balance of femininity. These women are not known as "door mats", nor are they known as "Feminists"; They are just known as graceful, elegant and charming women. Similarly, Walt Disney's original Disney Princesses and other female characters have also stood the test of time, thanks to their timeless values. In the interest of highlighting these positive, timeless values - as well as the characters that embody them - I wanted to do a Disney female role model countdown.

Timeless Values

So what are these timeless, charming values? What makes a good role model? It's not being the most popular or being the most physically attractive but rather, being the most personally attractive inside.

"Don't blame your family, circumstances or birth for what you are. Your personality can become the way you wish it to be... It is up to you to make the changes necessary for improvement. Changing is a part of growing, a process that began when you were born. It continues all your life. By giving more thought to your attitudes, you can alter and redirect the course of your life. Remember you'll only be as beautiful as the inner you permits. Cosmetics, clothing, and a trim figure can do wonders, but they can seldom hide a distorted inner you."

While appearance and presentation can be charming traits to have, the real key is to how one treats themselves, others and life in general:

1. Adaptability & Resilience - the ability to recover from or adjust easily to difficult conditions or change.

2. Adventurousness - willing to take risks or try out new methods, ideas or experiences.

3. Compassion & Courtesy - concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; politeness in one's attitude and behavior toward others.

4. Feminine Balance - the ability to be in harmony with one's femininity without exploiting it.

5. Grace & Elegance - an attractive/stylish & polite manner of appearing & behaving.

6. Gratefulness - showing appreciation; thankful.

7. Honest & Sincere - free of lies & deceit; truthful.

8. Humble & Respectful - unassuming appearance & behavior; not arrogant or flashy.

9. Intellectually Curious - desire to invest time and energy into learning more.

10. Optimistic - a hopeful, confident & otherwise positive outlook [especially in negative situations].

11. Physical Healthy & Fit - the ability and desire to be physically active and healthy.

12. Prudent & Mature - acting with or showing care and thought for the future; good judgment.

13. Rational & Balanced - ability to think, understand, or form judgments by a logical process; taking everything into account; not emotionally sensitive.

14. Sense of Humor - the ability to laugh at oneself or their situation.

15. Spunky & Spirited - not deterred by danger or pain; full of energy, enthusiasm & determination.

Here are my results:

18. Ariel (The Little Mermaid I-III)

Ariel's best qualities are her intellectual curiosity, adventurousness and physical fitness. Unfortunately, she can also be incredibly self-absorbed, not taking others into consideration. A prime example of this would be when she puts Flounder's life at risk and makes fun of him for being afraid of sharks. Another example would be the fact that Ariel skipped out on most of her musical rehearsals as well as missed the big show because she was too busy doing her own thing. Ariel is incredibly flighty and not very dependable. She seems to run on her whims, doing whatever she feels at the moment. While it's great that Ariel really enjoys life and is open to new cultures, it's not great that she's so inconsiderate, irresponsible and immature. Ariel not only put her family at risk, but her entire kingdom as well, when she made a deal with the sea devil. Most of the time Ariel only cared about how things affected her personally, not anyone else around her and she took much for granted. For the same reasons that Ariel is often associated with the stereotypical "rebellious teenager", she is also not the most quality role model.

17. Tiana (The Princess And The Frog)

Tiana came from humble beginnings so she doesn't take much for granted. She is not an indulgent person and even though she's a great cook, she manages to stay in great shape. She is very ambitious and determined to reach her goals in life. While Tiana understands the value of hard work and doesn't expect anything to be handed to her, she can also be quite nasty and violent at times - particularly towards Prince Naveen. When it comes to Charlotte, Tiana is a very good friend who is very supportive and considerate. After becoming a frog, Tiana becomes very rude, aggressive and manipulative with Prince Naveen, even abusing him verbally and physically. Luckily, as the film goes on though, Tiana seems to get past this "defense mechanism" and starts to see Naveen for who he is inside and starts to treat him much better, even teaching him how to mince and eventually falling in love with him as well. Tiana has a healthy sense of humor, a sense of direction and determination and she also has a sense of class and grace when she's not bullying Naveen. Outside of the way Tiana reacts to Naveen before falling in love with him, she is a pretty good role model.

16. Elsa (Frozen)

Elsa suffered from a traumatic childhood. Not only did she nearly accidentally kill her little sister, but as a result, she lost the ability to touch her family, hangout with her sister and develop into the best person she could be. Her parents greatly misled her in life, even though they didn't mean to, and Elsa really suffered from her parents' mistakes. Instead of being warm and loving, Elsa was cold and reserved, pushing people away and shutting herself off from love, care and support, which could only make things worse. It took her sister almost dying by giving her life to save Elsa but luckily, Elsa finally learned her most important lesson in the end: Love makes you stronger, not weaker. Aside from these glaring issues that Elsa was dealing with, her foundation was actually very positive. Elsa seems to be smart, patient, considerate, rational, graceful and eloquent - at least when she's not incredibly anxious and [not] letting her emotions get the best of her. It's tough to overcome bad parenting but it can be done. As an example of "it's not where/how you start but where/how you finish", Elsa is a decent role model.

15. Merida (Brave)

Merida made some very big and very self-centered mistakes that turned most of her family into bears, almost got her mother killed and almost put her entire kingdom at war. That being said, she did actually learn from her mistakes and even had the courage to admit that she had been wrong before. The way she spoke to her mother in the beginning of the film was atrocious, yet by the end of the film, she was starting to speak more like her mother. She took her mother's love and care for granted until she was forced in a role-reversal, having to look after her mother in bear-form; teaching her, instructing her and soothing her etc. Merida had a really tough time maturing. Merida clearly wanted a better relationship with her family, as shown by her efforts to connect with them. While Merida inherited a lot of of positive traits from her mother, she also inherited some of the negative traits from her mother as well, which only made the tension between them worse. She was incredibly stubborn and self-centered but she was also surprisingly loving and caring. Aside from her problems at home, Merida was very skilled and resourceful outdoors, very physically agile and was even health-conscious (an apple a day...). She was very self-confident, adventurous, had a good sense of humor and was also pretty supportive of her loved ones. While her character was definitely not a great role model at the beginning of her film, she definitely started growing into one by the end; Learning how to see the bigger picture beyond just herself and her own wants and desires.

14. Alice (Alice in Wonderland)

Alice very much lives in a "world of her own". While it's nice that Alice can be so imaginative and adventurousness, she unfortunately does not balance this with intellectual curiosity. Instead of using her imagination to learn and explore more, Alice would rather use her imagination to escape reality and indulge in her fantasies and day-dreams. Additionally, even though Alice has no problem telling right from wrong, she often chooses wrong anyways and isn't very conscientious. That being said, Alice is very polite and respectful in the way that she communicates with others and when she wants to be, she can be very logical and reasonable. Overall, Alice isn't the worst role model a child could have but she's definitely not the best, either.

13. Moana (Moana)

Moana has a lot of positive role model qualities but she's also missing a couple important ones as well. On one hand, Moana is a very spirited, optimistic, compassionate and eclectic young girl who is very good at reading people and situations. On the other hand, Moana almost never says "thank you", coming off very ungrateful, and she also focuses much more on self-confidence than she does humility, resulting in an obvious imbalance. For the most part, Moana is responsible, mature and very intelligent. Overall, her qualities make her a pretty good role model - but with plenty of room to grow as well.

12. Pocahontas (Pocahontas I & II)

Pocahontas most stands out for how wise and thoughtful she is. She can be impulsive at times, such as when she dived off the cliff (even if it showed how physically fit she was) or followed/approached John Smith in the first place but she is often coming from a place of intellectual curiosity and rarely lets her emotions get the best of her. She is well-known for her spirited nature and sense of adventure, as well as her compassion which ended up saving tons of lives as she was able to bring warring sides together. When she first encounters an entirely new and foreign culture through John Smith, her reaction is mostly positive until she reacts to his prejudice with some of her own. They quickly move past this, however, as she is a pretty mature and balanced person; able to differentiate when to follow her "head" and when to follow her "heart". This balance makes her a very good role model.

11. Wendy (Peter Pan)

Wendy may be just a young girl but she already exemplifies a lot of the best maternal traits. Not only she is very nurturing in the way she looks out for her younger brothers, but she is also very polite and respectful - she even shows Tinkerbell grace and mercy after Tinkerbell tries to get her killed and insults her multiple times. Wendy clearly has a very active and creative imagination but she also does have some sense of responsibility and maturity. While she may not be completely ready to start growing up yet (still displaying some immature naivety), she definitely already has a good foundation for balance. Wendy's humility, youthful spirit and respectful nature make her a splendid role model.

Honorary Mentions: Penny (Rescuers) & Shanti (Jungle Book I & II)

Penny and Shanti are exceptional children and notable role models. Unfortunately, they are both so young and/or we only get to see so little of them, that I didn't feel they fit as appropriately in this list as the other Disney female characters. This does not take away from their timeless role model qualities.

Penny gets through such a tough situation, being abandoned as a child and growing up as an orphan, then being kidnapped by an evil woman who uses her pet alligators to keep Penny trapped and in fear. It's an unimaginable situation but she remains so brave and so pure of heart - something that is truly inspiring. Penny is inspiring with her timeless values, refusal to be a victim and beautiful, brave and enduring spirit.

Shanti is also very young but with even less screen time than Penny, despite technically being in 2 movies as opposed to just 1. Despite being such a young character, she already shows all of the best maternal traits, showing the great mother she can/will become one day. She is very protective of the other children around her, putting others first and even sometimes putting herself at risk to save those others around her - although sometimes that risk-taking is unnecessary and impulsive. Shanti has a beautiful, timeless spirit of motherhood despite her young age: Nurturing, compassionate, courteous, humble and prudent.