Tag Archives: Disney movie

‘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.



Live-action ‘Winnie the Pooh’ announced, gets writer

2 Apr

No, this isn’t an extended April Fool’s Day joke. I wish it was.

Deadline reported early this morning that Winnie the Pooh is set to be the next live-action feature film from Disney. Alex Ross Perry, writer-director for Listen Up Philip, is set to pen the script based on A. A. Milnes’s classic.

Image courtesy of Disney

UGH. I adore Pooh. Don’t even get me started on how much The Tigger Movie made me cry (“He is the only one!”). Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, and Owl — how can we not adore this crew? The most recent Winnie the Pooh movie (2011) was fantastic, the perfect balance of sentiment and laughter for all ages.

BUT WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER ONE? Also, can this technically qualify as “live-action” if the main characters will be CGI? If the Academy doesn’t count Andy Serkis’s work as live-action, I don’t think CGI stuffed animals (even with a motion capture suit) would qualify.

The upside? This proposal actually has a unique plot! The focus won’t be on Christopher Robin as a boy but as an adult. Hopefully, we’ll find Christopher suffering through a midlife crisis and looking to his beloved playthings for wisdom.

For those of you who’ve lost track of every single live-action reboot the company scheduled, here they are:

1) The Jungle Book

2) Dumbo

3) Mulan

4) Pete’s Dragon 

5) Beauty and the Beast

6) and now Winnie the Pooh.

And, as with all adaptations, there’s the question of casting. Will vocal talent genius Jim Cummings voice both Tigger and Pooh as he does currently? Or will casting look toward bigger names to fill his shoes? What of Christopher Robin? For such a serious topic, will they grab a comedic actor or a more dramatic choice?

More importantly: what will the terrifying Heffalumps and Woozles look like?

So many questions, so few answers.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ adds Mrs. Potts, LeFou and Maurice

17 Mar

It’s not one lump, it’s two three for Disney casting news!

Emma Thompson will join the live-action Beauty and the Beast as Ms. Potts;

Kevin Kline will play Belle’s father Maurice;

and Josh Gad announced via Twitter he’ll join in as Gaston’s henchman, Lefou.

Talk about a busy day for Disney fans!

The release date is still being withheld by Disney production, but the movie will kick off in May at Shepperton Studios in London, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

The trio of award-winning actors will join Emma Watson’s Belle, Dan Stevens’s Beast and Luke Evans’s Gaston.

With the last two live-action fairytale reboots being musical-less, will Disney make its superstars sing for this adaptation? All signs point to yes, as Alan Menken is set to score the film and Sir Tim Rice (Lion King) will pen several new songs.

Stay tuned for more casting news!

‘Cinderella’ enchants on opening day; ‘Frozen Fever’ warms the heart

14 Mar

No need to run from the palace here; Cinderella is a real treat.

The incomparable Lily James (Downton Abbey’s Lady Rose) steals the show as the titular princess, but she is surrounded by excellent company. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) plays off James’s light yet genuine Cinderella as an equally charming and surprisingly developed Prince Kit. (Prince Charming finally gets a real name!)

The chemistry between the two shines brightest in the ballroom scenes, despite Madden’s struggles with ballroom dancing and not tripping over James’s spectacular blue gown.

Cate Blanchett’s Lady Tremaine endures a dip into attempted sympathy before embracing the deliciously wicked character fans of Disney’s 1950 original know and love.

The costuming and set design take on characters of their own. The wicked Tremaines are robed in the finest and gaudiest clothing a designer could possibly create, and it brilliantly displays the personalities of the actresses. Blanchett’s own wardrobe seems like a more timeless collection of 1940s Chanel: beautiful yet too formal to really be loved and comfortable.

James’s blue gown is breathtaking, and props to visual effects for making her transformation just right. I know some critics hesitated at the butterflies on the neckline; however, five minutes into the story, the butterflies are explained and serve as a crucial thematic tie throughout the film.

The sweeping landscapes and sets, paired with well-framed wide shots, sell the audience immediately as to the grandeur of the whole film. I’d expect nothing less from director Kenneth Branagh.

My only critique (nay, suggestion) would be the credits song (and who stays around for that?). Maleficent boasted a fantastic rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” by Lana Del Rey. Where was a take on “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes?” I appreciated James sneaking “Sing Sweet Nighting Gale” as she walked through the garden, but it just wasn’t the same without the undercurrent of those classic scores.

What overwhelms the most from this film isn’t the scenery, costumes, or Maddens’s stellar blue eyes. It’s the message sent out to audiences: “Have courage, and be kind.” That mantra introduced by Cinderella’s mother** (Agent Carter‘s Hayley Attwell) provides Cinderella with the ability to survive a torrent of abuses from Lady Tremaine, at least until Helena Bonham Carter can step in as the Fairy Godmother and give our heroine a taste of the justice she deserves. Of the rich themes Disney has put out to young children in recent years, the belief that kindness shines through despite the horrible things going on in life might be one of the strongest.

In recent years, Cinderella receives a lot of flack because she’s not as fiery and outgoing as modern princesses like Merida and Tiana. However, Branagh reminds audiences something Walt Disney always believed about Cinderella — being good and having a giving heart does not make one weak, it makes one strong. That strength is where Cinderella finds her beauty throughout the film, as she overcomes obstacles with compassion that Elsa would’ve simply frozen in a rage.

Walt Disney once said of Cinderella: “She believed in dreams, all right, but she also believed in doing something about them. When Prince Charming didn’t come along, she went over to the palace and got him.” And in this adaptation, that’s exactly what she did. I firmly believe Walt Disney would be very proud.

Now, onto something a bit colder…

Frozen Fever is one of the cutest little shorts Disney has done in a while, but I left feeling a twinge of disappointment. (Ugh, I hate typing those words.)

The bright spots: Elsa’s GREEN DRESS. I need it. Now. Shut up and take my money, Disney merchandising. I love the song. I found it just as catchy as “For the First Time in Forever.” Love the throwback to Hans and the snowball planting him firmly in a pile of horse crap. Kristoff’s accidental confession of love makes me smile. So sweet, and clearly it was Anna’s first time hearing those words! I wish they’d hung on that frame a second longer just to let the weight of those words sink in. And whatever those adorable little baby sentient snow creatures were blew me away. SO CUTE (and soooo marketable as plush toys. Mark my words, people…).

The whole thing felt a bit…rushed. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck openly admit to struggling with a story for the short, yet this feels like the “oh well, we gotta have something so this will do” option. Granted, the characters created by Lee and Buck are so complex that a short film wouldn’t do a proper story justice. I found Frozen Fever an excellent short to one of the biggest movies in animated history, and the story is impressive considering how little turnaround Lee and Buck had to craft something. Geez people, they won the Oscar last year! Give them time to breathe!

**A fair warning to parents of young children: there are several deaths throughout the film, though none are particularly gruesome or gory. They are, however, very emotionally charged. Please note this isn’t anything overdone from the original (her parents still die in the 1950 animated version too), but the deaths occur after you’ve become attached to the characters.

All in all, Cinderella will lead to a magical night. Enjoy!

Live-action Beauty and the Beast gets [SPOILERS]

6 Mar

No ooooone’s as beautiful as Gaston…Nor as British as the Beast.

Tales as old as yesterday reported Disney filled not one but TWO major roles for the live-action Beauty and the Beast.

Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, the Hobbit trilogy) will portray the ego-maniacal Gaston dueling Dan Stevens’s Beast.

The heartthrob and former Downton Abbey star was confirmed by Disney’s Facebook page to have accepted the role.

Stevens, whose most notable works are period dramas, seems like an interesting fit for the wrathful, spoiled Beast.

The first casting announcement came last month with Emma Watson’s elated Facebook post to fans announcing she’d accepted the role as the titular beauty, Belle.

What remains to be seen, however, are if these powerhouse actors have the singing chops to carry this adaptation. Watson teased that she’d begin singing classes for the role, begging the question “What ARE they going to sing?”

Beauty and the Beast is set to begin production later this year and is expected to hit theaters sometime in 2016.

FROZEN Heats Up Box Office: The Review

28 Nov

Words fail me when I attempt to express how much I loved Frozen.

But let’s give this review a shot (unless I combust into happy/overwhelmed tears while writing this)…

Frozen is one of the best Disney films within the last decade. Recent years have seen an upswing in animation quality and production in Disney films, and I have no problem with saying Frozen is the finest product of this “return to the golden era” thus far.

Yup, that’s right. I said it. Frozen is better than Tangled. Sorry, not sorry.

One knowledgeable of the Disney studios might be a little hesitant about the film; it lacks some of Disney’s super-star players in the production. No Glen Keane. No Alan Menken or Randy Newman. Drop your fears at the theater door. Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) and Chris Buck (Tarzan) did an amazing job. And with John Lasseter executive producing the film, this movie is in excellent hands.

The screen time between the sisters was balanced and the story was written in a way to make both female leads completely relatable. Kristen Bell’s comedic timing and vocal performance during the songs pleasantly surprised me. I knew she was talented, but her role as Anna blew me away. Idina Menzel’s Elsa was flawless and perfect (go figure), and Elsa is easily one of the most powerful characters Menzel has ever been.

Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff won over my heart. In an era of pretty-boy leads (I’m lookin’ at you, Flynn Rider), it was refreshing to see a character so “average” by Disney animation standards become a bit of a hero.

And can we just talk about the real winner among the vocal cast? JOSH GAD, YOU ADORABLE THING YOU. I feared Olaf might be overbearing or annoying (in a Jar-Jar Binks sort of way) but he was the right balance of comedy and concern.

Ultimately, the true selling point of the whole film was the story itself. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck managed to convert a “princess movie” fairytale into something so much more than an adventurous romance. Scenes with Anna and Elsa caused me to reflect on my own relationship with my little sister. Flipping the traditional meaning of “true love” for something much more real was one of the most refreshing things I’ve seen from the Disney studios in a very long time.

Visually, the movie was stunning. For the haters of CGI: GET OVER YOURSELVES. The “Let it Go” scene just replaced the floating lanterns in Tangled as my second Most Beautiful Disney Moment (sorry, Frozen. You just can’t top the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast). I breathlessly watched the intricate snow and ice the entire movie. So gorgeous.

My only concern with the entire film was that it felt too short in some places. There were plenty of places throughout the film that I would’ve loved further explanation. Give me more time with Anna and Elsa as kids. More time seeing Elsa struggle with her powers. How did Kristoff get to the trolls as a kid? (Also, can Jonathan Groff have more of a song? And by “song,” I mean something longer than 50 seconds…)

MORAL OF THIS REVIEW: Well, I somehow managed to write this while listening to the soundtrack and not cry! Yay! I do, however, want to see this movie at least three more times while clutching the Sven stuffed plush sold at World of Disney… Do yourselves a favor and GO SEE FROZEN.


What are you still doing reading this?! GO. JUST GO.  “FROZEN” hit theaters today, Nov. 27. It is the 53rd animated feature from Walt Disney Studios.