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Why ‘Moana’ Matters

2 Dec

Disney delivered on its latest princess adventure, and box office sales definitely reflect the public’s engagement with the film. Promotional materials promised Moana to be a high-seas adventure for all ages, focusing on a fiercely independent young woman discovering who she was meant to be.

The film’s cast of incredibly gifted vocal actors brings each character to life (even Alan Tudyk’s HeiHei the chicken). The music unifies the film in a way unparalleled since Randy Newman constructed the New Orleans soundscape of Princess and the Frog. Young Auli’i Cravalho elegantly represents an entire people group untouched by Disney (with the exception of Lilo and Stitch).

However, with popular success comes comparison. How did it stack up against Disney’s latest behemoth, Frozen? Does it live up to the hype? Will she be a good role model for young kids?

The one review most unnerving for many is the notion that Moana and other princess of color are the same. “Moana is just Pocahontas with water.” “Moana isn’t anything new.” Anyone who leaves Moana with that understanding missed the entire film.

Sure, teenage Moana shares characteristics with many Disney princesses. She and Pocahontas understand the weight of coming from prominent families and the implications of continuing a legacy for the sake of a community. She, Belle and Mulan know what it’s like to share a bond with their fathers. Moana, Mulan and Pocahontas have tight-knit bonds with their grandmother figures (because, ya know, Grandmother Willow isn’t exactly human…). Pocahontas sang about going just beyond the riverbend, and Moana dreamed of what lies just beyond the ocean’s horizon.

But Moana’s story delivers so much more. 

Moana offers a fresh narrative to the Disney princess line: adventure often comes at a cost. This is something we’ve yet to see a Disney princess struggle with understanding. Adventure to Moana means more than just escaping the palace walls for a stroll around the marketplace. It’s more weighty than wanting to shoot for her own hand in marriage. Moana’s decision to leave her family stems from following the rawest desires a person has, not just an adventure forced upon her by impending conflict. Sure, Moana had to return the stone. However, we all know that Moana would’ve escaped to the ocean eventually, with or without a quest.

This differs from any other princess we’ve seen. Mulan set out to save her father and family’s honor. Anna ventured into the snow to save her sister. Pocahontas defied her father for the sake of knowledge and to experience love.

Moana is the first princess who acted largely for herself. It’s a character arc historically saved for males.

Moana might be the first case of a true female bildungsroman in the Disney canon. 

So, while Moana might have traces of other Disney princesses (as those Disney princesses had traces of others in them), she truly does more for the brand than any other princess before her. Not only does she represent a culture largely ignored by the Disney company, she represents a revolutionary new path for any female Disney lead.

I could go on about the lush scenery, the stellar music, the meaningful dialogue between Moana and Gramma Tala, the detailed and stunning representations of Polynesian culture. However, the biggest recommendation I could make is this: Moana means more for kids than just being another princess movie. Take your daughters, take your sons, take your teenagers, take your grandparents, take everyone you know.

The message is both timeless and timely: take hold of your adventure, look beyond the horizon and you’ll go far. 

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‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Gets Release Date

31 May

Looks like December 2018 will have another jolly holiday.

Disney announced its Mary Poppins revival will hit theaters Christmas Day 2018. They also released the title: Mary Poppins Returns.

Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) will star as the practically perfect nanny. Lin-Manuel Miranda, star/creator of the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” and currently crafting music for Disney’s next animated feature Moana, will star opposite Blunt in a Bert-esque role.

The movie will follow a grown-up Jane and Michael Banks in depression-era London. The nanny will revisit the Banks family after a tragedy that deprives the family of happiness, according to the Company’s announcement.

Keep your calendars clear, as Christmas day releases will no doubt start piling back up as 2018 draws nearer.

 

‘Zootopia’ Review

4 Mar

Before seeing Zootopia: Disney, I can relate to bookish princesses, pixelated anti-heroes and even a tiny blue alien experiment. But how on earth can you make me sympathize with a rabbit in a weird cop outfit?

After seeing Zootopia: *wiping away tears* Disney, you did the thing.

The story begins with Judy Hopps (Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny aspiring to go where nobunny has gone before — the police academy. Much to the chagrin of her parents, Judy becomes the first bunny officer thanks to the Mayor’s mammal initiative (think Affirmative Action). Judy gets assigned to the heart of the area, the thriving metropolis of Zootopia. However, upon arrival, Judy realizes she’s the only one fighting for her dreams.

Judy gets a chance to move from meter maid to true cop when a missing mammal case comes her way. She teams up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist who lives up to the title ‘sly fox.’

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but with Jennifer Lee involved in the writing, there has to be a twist ending. This one isn’t as shocking as Hans’s betrayal of Anna, but it’s handled better by the protagonists than a simple *gasp! What are we to do?*

The humor surprised me most during the film. Sure, I’d seen the clip of Flash the Sloth in the DMV, the all-too-real commentary of how painfully slow government agencies can be. Maybe that’s where the humor gets its punch: as you laugh, you realize you’ve experienced the exact scenarios before and never in the best of situations. Early on, Judy’s parents attempt to simultaneously discourage and encourage their daughter to follow her dreams. “Settle! Settling isn’t so bad! Look at us, we settled!” Judy’s dad says. “Yeah, I settled hard,” responds her mother. One of the best moments is an incident with Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) where he tells Judy “This isn’t an animated fantasy where you sing a musical number and watch your problem dissolve into thin air. So, let. it. go.” My theater full of Cast Members guffawed at that point.

As with most Disney films, the true beauty lies in the message. “Zootopia” goes beyond a cute adaptation of “utopia” but ultimately looks to define “utopia” for an advanced society. Despite having evolved from their primitive states, the animals of Zootopia still expressed and experienced prejudices both outright and subtle.

In their attempts at crafting a modern utopia, Zootopia‘s writers offer more than a ‘lack of conflict’ definition. Their utopia becomes a moment where we recognize our own limitations, and in those limitations, we find unity. Once we realize the flaws of not only ourselves but how we categorize ourselves (predator/prey), the better we understand how to aid others. The representations of prejudice throughout the movie could be mix-and-matched with any contemporary issue.

How dare there be rabbits in the police academy? Females on the front lines of combat?

Don’t trust a fox (insert minority of choice here); they’re ruining Zootopia this country.

The movie leaves viewers with more than the high-flying adrenaline of Star Wars or the fuzzy warmth of Frozen (something Zootopia‘s writers poked fun at consistently). It gives a sense of urgency, a need to recognize our faults, and unite rather than continually degrade each other.

If you want your kid to be a better global citizen human being, take them to see Zootopia.

I give the film five pawcicles out of five. Zootopia hits theaters today, March 4.

 

Disney Princess as ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Characters

15 Jan

Because why not have a light saber and a tiara?

Rey/ Rapunzel: Both are adventurous and gifted with powers they don’t understand. They search for a family bond they’ve never known. Unconventional tools and fighting skills that make their unassuming persona more threatening. punzie_pan rey

 

Poe Dameron/ Mulan: Flawless tactician with the coolest sidekick in the movie. They somehow survive despite having an entire army out to kill them.   mulan  poe

Finn/ Ariel: Both long to be where others will understand them and will risk life and limb to accomplish that freedom. Stubborn and somewhat reluctant to have others take control, and ultimately, their love interest saves them in the end.

Kylo Ren/ Elsa: Tempermental and cold-hearted yet sells more merchandise than most other characters combined. Oh, and *SPOILER* they have a penchant for fatally wounding their relatives. (Sorry, I went there.)

kylo_renelsa

R2D2/ Aurora: Classic character who sleeps through most of the movie and only wakes up when absolutely necessary.   r2d2

General Leia Organa/ Pocahontas: Incredible leadership skills with a soft spot for ruggedly handsome, snarky men. pocahontasleia

Chewbacca/ Merida: Ace marksmen who look out for their non-traditional families. Slightly unruly hair and very thick accents. chewy merida

I struggled to find a princess worthy of Han Solo (let’s be real, he’s a princess in his own right). Help me out and leave comments below as to which princess could fill Han Solo’s boot.

A Holly Jolly Disney Christmas Playlist

7 Dec

‘Tis the season for Christmas music! Why not add some pixie dust to your playlist?

 

This playlist features: Pentatonix’s “Let it Go”

Idina Menzel’s “When You Wish Upon A Star”

The Muppets, “One More Sleep ’til Christmas”

“As Long as There’s Christmas” from Belle’s Enchanted Christmas

Aly & AJ’s “Greatest Time of Year”

spotify:user:1211545499:playlist:6M0lYJTB6HRqPe01TWLPcC

Need more Christmas cheer? I’ll be updating the playlist with more music in the coming days! Subscribe to get all the new tunes!

 

Actresses who would be amazing Disney Princesses

12 Aug

In honor of Lily James looking like an IRL princess of perfection, here are some more fabulous women who would look even better with a tiara:

1) Lupita Nyong’o

Covergirl, Oscar-winner, and women’s rights activist Lupita Nyong’o thrived in 2014 and shows no signs of stopping in coming years. Her rich voice and versatile acting earned the native Kenyan an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave. “Can she sing?” To that I say, do all Disney princesses really have to sing?

2) Emma Stone

Emma Stone’s best roles are the down-to-earth types. She plays quirky really, really well (House Bunny, Zombieland) but doesn’t shy away from the grittier stuff (The Help, Birdman). Stone’s raspy voice also gives her singing a unique quality. She recently took Broadway by storm as Sally Bowles in the Cabaret revival.

3) Diana Agron

Diana Agron rose to fame as Quinn Fabray in Glee, and she maintained a consistent performance despite inconsistent writing quality. While Agron never got the high-intensity solos that costar Lea Michele sang, Agron’s subdued alto allowed for several emotional moments. I also wouldn’t mind seeing another double-princess movie if Agron and Michele reunited…

4) Frieda Pinto

This Mumbai native enchanted audiences with her performance in Slumdog Millionaire, and since then, Pinto scored several beauty contracts and became a muse for a number of designers. Her charity work only enhances her princess-ness, as the actress supports AIDS research and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education.

But look at her. Absofrigginlutely flawless.

5) Anna Kendrick

She can sing. She can act. She’s already been a princess in a musical (Into the Woods). She’s one of the most adorable humans ever. Why doesn’t she have a princess movie yet? But, like, the type of princess who apologizes to inanimate objects after bumping into them…

6) Laura Osnes

Osnes played Cinderella in the Rodgers and Hammerstein revival last year, but the Broadway star also lives in true princess fashion. She has an incredible set of pipes to boot and could offer a return to classical sounding princesses like Snow White. Also, she’s gorgeous and rocks a ballgown like no one else.

7) Gugu Mbatha-Raw

If you don’t know who Gugu Mbatha-Raw is, do yourself a favor and rent Belle, and then we’ll talk. Mbatha-Raw’s powerful portrayal of a mulatto woman socially combating slavery in England is incredible. She commands the screen and, like Osnes, makes wearing corsets look effortless. She’s nothing short of spectacular. (Aaaaaand she has a really lovely English accent.)

8) Beyonce

#queenBey #bowdown

Who do you think would make a great princess? Which princess could you see each lady portraying on screen?

Check out the princes’ list here: Actors Who Should Consider Being Disney Princes

‘Inside Out’ an emotional rollercoaster

22 Jun

Disney PIXAR’s latest film Inside Out offers one of the most heart-wrenching, emotionally charged creations to date.

Which I should’ve expected seeing as the movie is literally about an 11-year-old girl and her emotions.

Very little about Inside Out‘s plot was ever divulged to the public, and writer/director Pete Docter helped keep a majority of the details under wraps. Several characters and plot details were completely withheld from any trailers or teasers. When I walked into the movie, I expected to cry but not the flood of tears I sobbed multiple times during the film.

Joy  (voiced by the always perfect Amy Poehler) loves her job as acting chief of pre-teen Riley’s “headquarters.” The audience is treated to the beauty of seeing Joy be the very first emotion and core memory that Riley feels in the movie. Shortly joining Joy, however, is Sadness (Phyllis Smith of The Office) who serves as Joy’s foil. Duh, they’re opposites. Anger, Fear and Disgust (Lewis Black, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling, respectively) round out the Headquarters crew. When Sadness accidentally threatens the safety of Riley’s happy core memories (and Joy’s proudest accomplishments) the two get sucked into a vent and tossed into the rest of Riley’s brain, leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear to rule over Riley’s emotions until Joy and Sadness return. The plot thickens when Anger suggests running away from home to help Riley cope with a new city. If her happiest memories were made in Minnesota, why stay in San Francisco? Joy and Sadness then race against the clock to stop Riley and the remaining emotions from doing something she’d completely regret, an action that would emotionally bankrupt Riley.

What makes the movie so spectacular is that it forces introspection of its audience. A film about the human mind, adolescence and feelings would have to induce some form of self-evaluation for viewers. However, Inside Out never once becomes preachy with its message that Sadness –like Joy– has its place at times, and ultimately, our lives are constructed of moments of mixed emotions.

Visually, the movie is STUNNING. The emotions are crafted with hazy, soft edges. Riley’s brain is constructed with the creativity that Inside Out’s subject demands. The scene in Abstract Thought was easily the most enjoyable, as artists rendered actual cognitive theory in a visual format. So. Incredibly. Brilliant.

Inside Out serves as the pinnacle (for now at least) of Pete Docter’s writing and directing skills. Yes, that means Inside Out is better than Up. It’s even more tear-jerking than Toy Story 3, a feat I never thought possible. The script engages all ages, which is one of the most profound aspects of its inherent relatability. The dialogue never seems too hokey for the respective characters, which is impressive given that Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear are characters literally founded on basic emotions. Each character finds development while still staying true to their namesake emotion.

This might just be PIXAR’s best film to date. The concept is fresh, stunningly original and poignant in ways few other animated movies have been in recent years.

Verdict: GO SEE INSIDE OUT. Now. What are you still doing reading this? Seriously. Leave and go see it. Bring tissues. And once you’ve had your fill of emotional wreckage for the year, get ready to buy the movie as soon as it hits DVD. It truly is a PIXAR classic.