Category Archives: disney

Anastasia Isn’t Disney: Why Everyone Thinks It Is

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For some reason, Anastasia has this weird reputation of being mistaken for a Disney movie, but it’s not.

anastasia NOT DISNEY

Anastasia was actually done by Fox Animation Studios, and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. So why is Anastasia always mistaken for Disney? Well, there are quite a few reasons, actually!

First of all, Anastasia is a Princess movie. Thematically, it’s set up a lot like the Disney Princess movies: Anastasia wants something (belonging), Anastasia meets a cool guy on her quest to find that thing, and Anastasia accomplishes her goal (finding a place where she belongs/finding her home) and gets the guy as well.

anastasia and grandmother

anastasia kiss

She also has a villain to deal with – Rasputin, who’s a total jerk and ups the ante on creepiness the way that villains like Jafar and Doctor Facilier have in Disney’s past. (We’re going to go more into specifics about that later, when we talk music.)

Secondly: at a glance, the animation styles are similar. Given that its directors (Don Bluth and Gary Goldman) were former Disney animators, this isn’t too surprising. In particular, Anastasia and Ariel look very similar to me design-wise.

anastasia vs. ariel

However, they’re not exactly the same. In movies like The Little Mermaid, Disney tends to exaggerate features (like Ariel’s big eyes and big lips), while Anastasia tries to stay on the more realistic size and downsizes features. Anastasia (and the rest of the cast) have smaller eyes, smaller mouths, and in general look more like people you would see in real life. I mean:

Ariel

little mermaid 6

little mermaid seahorse

Anastasia

anastasia

anastasia waltz

You can see the difference in their expressions, personalities, how they hold themselves…so while some details are similar, at a second glance it’s easier to tell how they stand apart.

Anastasia shares a lot of other traits with Disney movies, such as….

Opening narration:

A lot of the older Disney movies (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) opened with a sort of prologue, where the narrator would tell a story and lead the viewer up to the present day. Anastasia did something very similar by having her grandmother narrate in the beginning. (Fun fact: the score playing during this scene is actually called Prologue, and since the actual opening I had posted seems to have disappeared, I’ll post the score for you guys to enjoy instead.)

(Another fun thing in the opening scene: Rasputin’s entrance is reminiscent of Maleficent: all the drama, all the magic, all the creepiness. Who did it better, guys?)

Opening scenery shots:

There’s a shot in Rumor in St. Petersburg that’s very reminiscent of Bells of Notre Dame from Hunchback of Notre Dame:

anastasia st. petersburg (Rumor in St. Petersburg)

hunchback bells of notre dame (Bells of Notre Dame)

Not exact, but pretty similar. And yet again, some animation similarities appear in how the buildings are rendered.

The father/daughter relationship:

Disney has a thing about father/daughter relationships: Ariel/Triton, Belle/Maurice, Jasmine/The Sultan… When a parent survives, it’s usually the father, and even if he doesn’t, he’s usually shown in the narrative before his death (ex: Cinderella, Frozen). And much like the Disney girls, Anastasia’s father/her relationship him with is emphasized early on. While the main family relationship we deal with is Anastasia and her grandmother, her father is shown pretty prominently.

We get them dancing at the beginning:

anastasia and dad 1 anastasia and dad 2

And we get a sad echo when Anya, still grasping at memories of the past, sees her father in he fantasy sequence during Once Upon a December:

anastasia and father

Yes, it’s not the main focus, but it’s a pretty important one. We don’t see that emphasis with Anastasia and her mom.

The animal sidekick:

Because apparently princesses can’t have real flesh and blood friends, Anya has an animal sidekick like most of the Disney princesses. Hers is the absolutely adorable Pooka.

anastasia pooka

And much like Jafar, Rasputin has a sidekick in his weird albino bat, Bartok.

anastasia bartok would kick her

The music:

This is a big one, guys. Some of the music in Anastasia very clearly follows tropes that Disney’s music movie scheme often focuses on. Three in particular stand out: the “I Want” song, the “Villain” song, and the “Love Song.” I’ll go through them in order and explain why.

Journey to the Past = “I Want Song”

Journey to the Past is Anya’s “I Want” song. What does Anya want? She wants to belong, and find the family that she knows has always been out there. And just like most Disney “I Want” songs, Journey to the Past spells out her intentions around the second half:

Somewhere down this road, I know someone’s waiting

Years of dreams just can’t be wrong

Arms will open wide, I’ll be safe and wanted

Finally home where I belong

This is shown through the family Anya sees on her journey to St. Petersburg. The longing in her face is painful to see, but you can also see her resolve strengthen. That’s what she wants, and she’s determined to keep going and find it, no matter how wary she feels stepping off-course.

And of course, just like other Disney characters do, Anya gets what she wants in the end: her family, a sense of belonging, and something she didn’t expect to find – love. It’s pretty cool how that works out for characters, isn’t it?

In the Dark of the Night = “Villain Song”

In the Dark of the Night is one of those songs that doesn’t quite fit into Disney standards, because even though Disney has some pretty dark villains, Rasputin surpasses them all. There’s a whole section of the movie where the narration talks about how he GAVE UP HIS SOUL so he could murder the Romanovs, and you can see his flesh stripped away as he’s left a skeleton. That’s pretty dark. Even Facilier didn’t go quite that far.

There are some similarities to Disney villains of the past though. Like Ursula and Yzma, Rasputin gives us his backstory via song in the second verse:

I was once the most mystical man in all Russia

When the royals betrayed me, they made a mistake

My curse made each of them pay

But one little girl got away

Little Anya, beware, Rasputin’s awake!

Like Facilier, Rasputin has some “friends on the other side” to help him out, which leads into the next scene, when they attack the train that Anya, Dimitri and Vladimir are on.

And like Scar, Rasputin is really freaking dramatic.

bitch i'm fabulous reaction lion king

I mean come on, look at this montage, this is ridiculously dramatic. Everything Rasputin does is ridiculously dramatic. As creepy as he is, it’s hard to take him seriously at times because of the sheer drama that surrounds him. (Plus, he failtastically dies TWICE, which is pretty bad.)

Learn to Do It (Waltz Reprise) = “Love Song”

I talked about this back when Mic and I wrote about Animated Love songs, so I won’t spend too much time dwelling on this, but I want to point out that this is another one of those Disney touches that slides into the movie. I mean, we have Vlad, who’s kind of our Timon stand-in, singing about these two crazy kids in love, and him realizing that 1) this was never something he’d planned for, thus, 2) it’s completely going to change their group dynamic.

Unlike Timon, who takes a while to warm up to Nala, we can see that Vlad’s already warmed up to Anya based on this one great line:

She’s radiant, and confident, and born to take this chance

We know that Dimitri is head over heels into his “mark” based on how he looks at her, but now we can see Vlad’s affection shining through. It’s not something we see often in movies, and it’s kind of nice to see Vladimir care for Anya in a platonic way – like a father in law, perhaps. 😉

We’re more in Disney territory toward the end:

I taught her well, I planned it all, I just forgot…romance!

Vlad, how could you do this?

How will we get through this?

I never should have let them dance

Poor Vlad; he’s got some woes here. And like Timon, he’s not entirely happy about this change in course.

Another important thing in this scene is the dance. We get this a lot in Disney movies, where characters share a dance, and it shows the emotional growth between the two characters. Here, we see stubborn Anya allowing Dimitri to lead her. The fact that she trusts him enough to lead shows that she’s starting to care for him, and open up to him. Similarly, we see Dimitri being less reserve around Anya now. It’s really sweet all around.

Conclusion

While Anastasia is not Disney, its creators were likely influenced by their time working at Disney. However, Anastasia stands on its own as a firmly non-Disney film. So next time someone in your life says Anastasia is Disney, just remember what Anastasia herself says:

anastasia NOT DISNEY

 

Do you think Anastasia is similar to Disney’s other films? Who had a better dramatic entry: Maleficent or Rasputin? What do you guys love most about Anastasia? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a smashing Saturday!

wild thornberries smashing ariel gif

Cheers,

M&M

 

Fear and Love at First Sight: An Examination of Disney Princesses and Their Princes

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Ariel and Eric are probably my Disney OTP (besides Esmeralda/Phoebus and Jane/Tarzan and Jasmine/Aladdin and Pocahontas/John Smith *cough*). I, and I’m sure many of you, have wanted to meet our Prince Charming with a perfect Love at First Sight moment we frequently associate with Disney. But I took a closer look at all the Princess/Prince meetings and um… well… I noticed a lot of trends that don’t really sit well with me. Let’s explore!

Pre-Renaissance Films
The Pre-Renaissance princess movies are Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. All three meetings are a very typical ‘love at first sight’  storybook scene. However, in the case of Snow White and Aurora, their prince appears out of nowhere, drawn by their voice and startling them. Snow White actually runs into her castle because she’s so scared, while Aurora pulls away. The meeting in Cinderella is less creepy since it happens at a party, where one would expect to meet new people.

Though Cinderella isn’t singing like the other two princesses are when they meet their princes, music is still an important element in their meeting. Cinderella is the first film where dancing is introduced as both an important storytelling and romantic element.

cinderella and her princey dancing

There is also a song, and though it is sung with the impression it is Cinderella and her prince, they’re not actually singing in the scene. Instead, their meeting has a narrator of sorts, the Duke. In contrast, Snow White and Aurora are both singing alone and then have a duet with the prince (Snow White’s doesn’t last very long though, since she runs off when the prince startles her).

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have many elements of their meetings in common. Firstly, both princes are on horseback. Animals are involved in both, with Aurora dancing with her owl friend and her other critters watching. In Snow White, Snow is singing to the doves. While Cinderella has mice friends and they did take her to the ball, they’re not present in this scene.

The settings for all three meetings are also similar. Snow White and Cinderella both happen in a castle and while Sleeping Beauty happens in the woods, they both stare at the castle in the distance afterwards.

sleeping beauty cuddling

The audience knows that castle is Aurora’s home, where she should be. Where Philip will have to battle his way to her and free her from Maleficent so they can be reunited. Cinderella meets the prince in his castle, where she ultimately belongs because she’s so good. It’s her escape from her stepmother. And while Snow White runs from the prince into the castle, at the end she leaves with him.

Setting is a theme we’re going to see repeated as well as some other points I made above.

To recap the pre-Renaissance Love at First Sight moments: running away, music, instant attraction, and castles.

star wars uhh reaction

Renaissance Films
We skip ahead a bunch of years and come to The Little Mermaid. TLM is the first film where we have a sort of ‘two meetings’ thing happen (it’ll make sense as we go on).

The first difference, and my favorite, is what draws Ariel and Eric together. Where Prince Charming and Philip were drawn by the sound of a mysterious voice and that’s how they find their princess, Ariel goes to the surface simply because she wants to see the ship.

little mermaid we're out to discover Exactly, Scuttle.

Then, she notices the fireworks and her curiosity skyrockets. For the first time in Disney Princess History, neither of them were looking for/drawn to each other. However, the only piece of Ariel Eric has is her voice, thus the trend does live on. We’ll come back to this.

Music too is involved here, though neither of them is singing. Eric is playing a flute, while crewmembers dance and play instruments. Another common theme is the presence of animals: Max (Eric’s dog), and Scuttle. Scuttle also marks the first meeting where a princess has a friend present. Aurora is with her forest buddies, but they’re just passively watching everything happening. Scuttle is actively involved, talking with Ariel throughout. If only Ariel could have had another mermaid as a friend, or maybe even one of her sisters. (Princesses need friends, too!)

Ariel watches Eric, much like Philip and Charming watched Aurora and Snow. It’s love at first sight for her. However, I give her a pass because she actually sees Eric acting like a decent human being. She sees that he has the same lust for adventure she does (when Grimsby tries to tell him he needs to marry and he’s not having it), she sees that he’s humble (disgusted by the giant statue of himself), creative/artistic (the flute), AND is a total sweetheart when it comes to his dog. Please tell me who would not turn to mush at a real life Eric?

my body is ready reaction my body is ready hook reaction my body is ready copy reaction

Exactly. Boys and their dog get me every time. Philip and Charming just watched Aurora and Snow singing and talking to animals. Neither of those things seem very healthy.

But then, BOOM! Chaos. A storm! The ship EXPLODES! Ariel rescues Eric after witnessing him selflessly going back for his dog. Now she knows he’s courageous. When he wakes up on shore, Eric finally sees Ariel for the first time. She probably looked like an angel to him, with the sun hitting her the way it did and her perfect voice. Before they can talk, she’s startled by Max and Grimsby—just like the pre-Renaissance ladies running away.

little mermaid fuck mermaids reaction

The second time they meet is when Ariel has legs. They’re on the beach this time, with the castle in the distance. That is where Ariel is going to end up, visually illustrated as Eric offers her his support so she can walk with him. But the first time Ariel saw him, he was on a ship, perfectly straddling the line between their two worlds. They’re also on a beach, near the water, Ariel’s world, but firmly on land, Eric’s world. The castle visual remains in their first mutual meeting, while Ariel seeing him on a ship before is also significant.

The meeting is again facilitated by Max (animals shipping Disney couples since 1937!), who spooks Ariel onto the rock. Max is barking and unfamiliar and chasing her, so she’s rightfully a little scared.

And now here is the most important discovery I made: Every princess is scared during their so called “Love at First Sight” scenes. In Snow White a stranger pops out of nowhere and Snow literally runs away and barricades herself in her castle. This screams fear. Aurora is also scared, running and hiding behind a tree.In Cinderella, yes, it is definitely way less creepy and she does not present the same amount of fear. However, Charming approaches her from behind and she jumps when he touches her, hesitating before accepting. We can argue Cinderella is more shy and coy. If we had to pick one as the exception to the rule, I’d pick her.

cinderella and prince

Now Ariel is never fearful around Eric like Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora were. But when the ship begins to burn, she realizes there’s danger. And later, when Grimsby and Max arrive, she’s scared of them and also what would happen if they knew she was a mermaid. So far the princesses have either been scared of their suitors or there is an element of danger surrounding them. This theme is going to come up in every single movie.

this displeases me reaction

Their second meeting is kind of a twist on the “Love at First Sight” trope. Though Eric is clearly drawn to her, he’s disappointed when he thinks she’s not the girl that saved him and so he tries not to like her that way. Spoiler alert: he fails.

little mermaid prince-eric-laughing

Next we have Beauty and the Beast and I’m going to jump right into fear because um… Belle and the Beast do NOT have a love at first sight moment at all. Belle is terrified of the Beast. He’s holding her father captive, slithering around in the dark, and yelling and threatening her. He physically grabs her and throws her to the ground.

Like Ariel saving Eric during their meeting, Belle is also trying to save someone she loves: her father. A trend of heroism develops here and continues into the Renaissance era.

The setting here is also a castle and instead of animals, there are inanimate objects everywhere. Their gossip is an important aspect of the scene because they’re talking about needing Belle to save them as she’s trying to save her father. Ultimately, this castle needs her and she’s accepted in it in a way she never was in her small town. And then of course, it also becomes her home, too.

frozen me... feels reaction

This meeting is the first one when the prince isn’t immediately visible to the princess. Belle needs to tell the Beast to “come into the light.” This is something we’ll see repeated with Tangled. Also important to note, this is the first meeting with no music involved. The Beast isn’t drawn to Belle’s voice, nor is there a romantic song they sing together like in Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps this is because Belle does not fall in love this version of the Beast. She only cares for him after he changes his attitude and stops acting like such a dickwad. That is when they have their duet.

All right, let’s head to our next film: Aladdin. Like our other princesses being scared, Jasmine is about to have her HAND CUT OFF. Yes, she’s terrified. Jasmine comes from a very clinical environment where all her needs are met. No one has ever raised a hand to her and here is this giant man with a knife and she has no idea why she’s in trouble. Cue: terror.

Also cue: ALADDIN!

I mentioned this theme of heroism in the Renaissance first meetings and here’s another one: Aladdin saving Jasmine. This first meeting builds on the one in TLM where Ariel sees Eric being a decent, normal dude. In Aladdin, he sees her giving an apple to a child (just like he did with bread!), so while he is clearly drawn by her looks (“Wow.”), there is something deeper there. The scene also establishes that he and Jasmine work well together to get out of a very bad situation. She questions him initially, but plays along right away. However, Aladdin saving Jasmine reverses the mini-trend of women saving men.

Like other meetings, animals are involved (Abu). There’s also a familiar shot of Aladdin watching Jasmine similar to Philip and Charming and yes, it’s cute, but it is also is a tad creepy.

aladdin watching jasmine

There is no song involved and here is where the trend of saving that big duet moment happens. Well, it technically started in Beauty and the Beast (Something There happens later), but it continues here, thus making it a trend. While the pre-Renaissance films where all “Love at First Sight” these later films added more obstacles to their love stories, so while there was instant attraction, they didn’t immediately act on it. The importance of voice dies out in Aladdin. While singing voices led men to women (Snow White, Aurora, Ariel) or there was singing during their meeting (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), that common thread is cut.

Aladdin and Jasmine meet in the marketplace. I like the symbolism here again as they’re between worlds. Like Eric was on a ship, a piece of land on water, in between, Jasmine and Aladdin are meeting in the middle, too. Jasmine has left the palace and is among common people, while Aladdin is in the “city” so to speak and later brings Jasmine to the outskirts, where he lives. And of course, they look at the palace, like Aurora and Philip. Aladdin longs to live there and with Jasmine at his side, not knowing she’s the princess, he will eventually.

aladdin

This leads to Pocahontas, where John Smith PULLS A GUN ON HER. Pocahontas is already wary (but curious) because John is a stranger and invader and now this. She doesn’t physically appear scared, she seems calm the entire time.

pocahontas in the mist

And even if she is not afraid of John Smith, neither were Ariel and Jasmine. They were scared because of what was happening around them and the element of danger. A gun pointed at you definitely qualifies as an element of danger present in a so called LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT meeting.

aladdin what

The mood changes quickly, though. After she runs off, like the pre-Renaissance princesses (and Ariel), a more traditional first meeting happens. The music and the flying leaves when their hands meet is more romantic and dreamy. That is the scene we see their attraction happen.

pocahontas holding hands

This meeting brings back a musical element since John was just singing Mine, Mine, Mine. There’s also animals present as Meeko and Flit watch. Pocahontas falls back on a lot of old tropes. However, in a move only Philip and Eric have made, John Smith asks for her name, which I am very proud of.

The setting here is the wilderness, something we haven’t seen since Sleeping Beauty. Pocahontas is not with her tribe or by Mother Willow, so she’s out on her own, kind of in her own space. And John Smith is new, so he has no place that’s familiar yet. In a way, they both meet in a strange land to signify the new world they’ll create together.

From there we move to Mulan. Like Beauty and the Beast and their decidedly not “Love at First Sight” meeting, the same applies here. And like Eric thinking the girl he met on the beach wasn’t his savior, Shang of course has no idea Mulan is about to blow his mind.

reaction giggling noise

There is a huge emphasis on names in this scene, something other meetings have lacked. Similar to how Jasmine and Ariel never feared Aladdin or Eric, Mulan isn’t afraid of Shang, but he is the authority figure and she’s clearly frazzled. However, the element of danger here is the fact that Mulan was just the target of a legit fight. The entire camp has been fighting with Mulan buried underneath them. Her meeting with Shang is also her first real test at being a man so she’s understandably nervous. Still, it fits an unnerving trend of princesses being afraid or under threat in their supposedly “Love at First Sight” moments.

Mushu is the animal present in the scene. Their setting is also out in nature, getting ready for war. I think this ties back into Mulan’s own personal story and I like that.

Modern Films
Now we hit the most recent princess films. Princess and the Frog obviously meets the animal trend since Naveen is a frog when they meet. Like TLM, though, they also have two meetings. There is a quick scene in the beginning when Naveen is playing music and trying to be charming, but Tiana is not having it. However, fear is back in their second meeting.

Tiana is startled because there’s a talking frog! And also, what was he doing on the balcony? He was just there, like the pre-Renaissance princes happened to be. In something we see continued in Tangled, Tiana physically assaults Naveen with books since she’s so scared. Naveen does apologize for scaring her, which is nice, but that’s probably because he needs her to kiss him.

Several new things continue to arise in this film. Tiana is concerned for her friend Lottie who is dancing with a fake prince Naveen. Of course, no other princess has needed to be concerned for their human friends since they never had one before (besides Pocahontas).

princess and the frog bestie hug

This is definitely not a “Love at First Sight” scene, but still, it’s the only one where they kiss as soon as they meet! Again, the plot hinges on Tiana kissing him so there’s a reason for it, but she did still kiss him. Like Ariel, Belle, and Aladdin, the thread of heroism returns since Tiana was trying to save Naveen. New and old elements combine in Princess and the Frog.

Our trip though Disney Princess History takes us to Tangled. I touched on it previously, but Rapunzel smacks Flynn with a frying pan since she’s so scared of the strange man that climbs into her room, a la Tiana. Flynn also shares some similarities with Naveen. Naveen is definitely more flirty (seriously go watch that scene over with this in mind), but Flynn tries to use his smolder.

tangled meeting

When it fails, he drops the act and just wants to get as far away from Rapunzel as possible.

Unlike any other scene, except maybe Mulan, their first meeting is more about Rapunzel proving herself to Gothel. After she hits him with the frying pan, cowers behind a mannequin, and checks him for sharp pointy teeth, she traps him in her closet to prove to Gothel she can take care of herself.

tangled pascal

In between she also tries on the tiara he stole and while it maybe seems familiar to her, it is quickly forgotten when Gothel returns. Later, after Flynn assures her he wants nothing to do with her hair, Rapunzel is confused. After all, Gothel swore her everyone would be out to get her. But like he also had normal teeth instead of terrifying ones, Flynn represents her freedom from Gothel. He guides her out of her isolation.

As discussed, like TLM there are two meetings. One where Rapunzel sees him (like Ariel watching the ship) and one where they actually talk for the first time. Tangled also draws other parallels to films like Beauty and the Beast. Rapunzel is first cloaked in darkness and steps into the light so Flynn can see her. While the Beast hid himself away because he believed himself hideous and unlovable, Rapunzel did it partly out of fear and suspicion.

As the pre-Renaissance films had an emphasis on music, a reprise of Rapunzel’s solo song follows their meeting and her subsequent leaving of the tower.

tangled now's when my life begins copy

And like the Renaissance films, their big duet comes later.

Their meeting is her tower because, as I said, Flynn represents the world and life Rapunzel can have. They leave together to see the lights.

reaction dead from the feels

Finally, this brings us to Frozen. Frozen has two meetings and while I considered if I had to include Anna meeting Hans since he’s not her true love, I rewatched the scene to see if it played with any tropes I’d already noticed or diverged from the usual meetings as a sign that Hans was not a good guy.

What I found was this:

-the Hans/Anna meeting plays out very cutesy and storybook-like (what you’d expect of a “Love at First Sight” scene)

frozen gorgeous wait what

-danger is present since she gets HIT BY A HORSE and falls onto a boat that nearly topples into a lake

-prince on horseback trope reappears (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty)

-no visible castle but Anna’s status is immediately told + mentions of the coronation

This takes us to Anna meeting Kristoff. Now, Frozen bothered me since it hated on previous Disney love stories. You’d expect then that this meeting would be very different from the others. However, Anna has the same fear as the other meetings discussed. Kristoff is covered in snow, not clearly visible like the Beast, and she backs away from him.

frozen awkward

Like Tiana, she expresses concern over her friend/sister since she has a person she can do that for! While Tiana wanted to know who Lottie was dancing with if he was with her, Anna wanted to know what Kristoff knew about Elsa.

This scene is a contrast to the perfect meeting she has with Hans. While Hans is perfect and charming, Kristoff is gruff. He doesn’t make a good first impression on her or Oaken since he gets tossed out of the store. Similarly, Mulan makes a horrid first impression as the center of a fight and unable to pick a name for herself. It’s not a traditional “Love at First Sight” scene but we’ve already seen several of those (Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog).

It even has an animal involved since Kristoff needs to buy carrots for Sven and Sven is waiting for him right outside the shop. Clearly, Frozen’s “you can’t marry someone you just met” love story doesn’t really hold up when compared to other princess meetings.

Conclusion
Wow! That was a lot of films! Okay, so the trends that carried through all were DANGER! FEAR! (which is great… not) and the presence of animals. We’ve also seen the importance of music and setting. All the eras also had their own particular features like heroism and the removal of a song while couples met. In the more recent films we saw a lot of physical humor added, even in Frozen, where Kristoff is thrown from the shop and hits his head on the sign. But the eras also weaved in and out of each other with similar aspects reappearing like women running away or light vs dark.

Some stand out meetings, I think, are Tangled, where there’s less focus on them as a couple and more focus on Rapunzel beginning to realize some of the things Gothel had told her were wrong. I also loved how Ariel saw Eric for the first time and it was a total surprise since she was just excited about the fireworks. Still, she got to see several sides of him (his adorableness with his dog, his disgust at a statue in his honor) that told her something about who he was instead of the three previous couples before her where there was no depth to why they fancied each other.

Fun Facts:

-Sleeping Beauty is the first film where Aurora is actually like, “What the hell you’re a stranger!!” (Not really, but kinda.) Points for that!

-Snow is the only princess that actively wishes for love and then POOF: Prince.

-Cinderella is the first film there’s an iconic dance.

-Prince Philip is the first prince to ask his love for her NAME upon meeting her (though it happens after Once Upon a Dream). Eric asks Ariel for her name during their second meeting. I think it’s hilarious while the Prince in Cinderella is begging her to stay he never once asks for her name.

-Belle and Anna both have two suitors, one being the villain of their film. While Anna and Hans have a first meeting scene, Belle and Gaston do not since they already know each other.

-Snow White and Tiana are both wishing, one by a wishing well and the other on a star, when they meet their prince.

-The setting in Princess and the Frog is a mansion, instead of a castle. There is also a party like in Cinderella.


Which is your favorite True Love Meeting? What do you think of all these common threads? What are some other fun facts you noticed?

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. See you next week!

Cheers,

M&M

What’s in a Title? Exploring Gender and Naming Trends of the Disney Princess Movies

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Something that’s always nagged at me is the swap to gender-neutral titles for the later Disney Princess movies. Before then, Disney has always taken pride in naming movies after protagonists, so what changed? Let’s take a trip through titling history and find out.

Thus far, there are twelve Disney Princess movies. They are (in order):

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
  2. Cinderella (1957)
  3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  4. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  6. Aladdin (1992)
  7. Pocahontas (1995)
  8. Mulan (1998)
  9. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  10. Tangled (2010)
  11. Brave (2012)
  12. Frozen (2013)

Out of these, 7/12 either contain the princess’ name, or a title referring to her (ex: Sleeping Beauty, TLM). Two of these – Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and Frog – involve a princess sharing a title with their love interest. There are a few reasons for this.

The majority of the Disney princess movies are named after the fairytale/legend they were inspired from. For example, Mulan comes from the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, while The Little Mermaid was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. (Seeing the similarities here?) Since Disney takes a lot of inspiration from myths and fairytales, they also tend to use the titles (or similarly stylized titles) as well. Makes sense, right?

reaction yes

The movies are also often titled with a name/title related to the protagonist to show 1) who the story is about, and 2) that this is the heart of their journey. For example, to take an example from a non-Princess movie, Hercules is about Hercules trying to discover who he is, and find his place in life. Mulan is about Mulan, who doesn’t feel like she fits into the confines of her society and breaks free of them when she joins the army and finally uncovers her true self. That’s why for #6, Aladdin makes sense as a title despite Jasmine’s heavy involvement in the plot. While Aladdin and Jasmine both get a bulk of the movie’s POV, Aladdin is the one whose journey we follow most. His character arc (proving his worth and showing everyone that he’s more than their assumptions) drives most of the plot. Thus, he inches ahead of Jasmine just a bit, making him the protagonist (main character) and her the deuteragonist (the secondary protagonist/second most important character).

The titles are also common sense: in marketing, you want to have a title that stands out and makes sense for the story you’re presenting to an audience. By naming their movies after the tale that inspired their story, or naming them after the protagonist, Disney makes it easy for an audience to see who and what their story is going to be about. Example: look at the title of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: it’s pretty obvious that this movie is about Snow White and her seven dwarf friends. The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid. Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful girl and a beast… You get the picture.

The other three are our latest Disney Princess installments: Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Notice the stark difference in titling between the early movies and 10-12. All three of these are one-word titles that detail actions or attributes rather than a name or specific tale. So what changed?

The simple answer: Disney wanted to appeal to boys.

The longer answer: The Princess and the Frog was the last movie with traditional Disney styling: it had 2D animation and the fairytale-based name. However, PatF was considered a failure by Disney, despite its success with critics, because it grossed less than many of the other movies that came out earlier in the Renaissance. Disney’s marketing believed that the word “princess” in the title was part of what caused the failure, because it labeled the movie as being for little girls specifically.

seriously? reaction

Now, let’s talk about this for a second. Why does the word “princess” = only girls want this? Unfortunately, that’s because of a little thing called gender roles, and the gender stereotypes that come with them.

According to Psychology Dictionary, gender roles arethe pattern of behavior, personality traits and attitudes defining masculinity or femininity in a certain culture.” A problem with gender roles is that they can often lead to gender stereotypes: pegging girls as one thing and boys as another when that isn’t always the case.

Some examples of this include: Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls are emotional, boys are stoic. Men are financial providers, women are caretakers of the home and kids. And, according to Disney, “princesses” are for girls.

Looking at it this way helps explain the title change: in trying to avoid losing out on a male audience, Disney does a 180 and decides to use more gender-neutral titles. It’s interesting to point out that before this, Disney hasn’t really focused specifically on appealing to a male audience with their princess movies. While they never used “princess” in their titles before now, that made sense considering they named their movies after the stories themselves. Most of their Disney Princess merchandise and advertising also relates directly to the Princesses themselves. (Our only exception would be Aladdin, because, as I said before, Aladdin is our main protagonist, so most of the promo would naturally focus more on him.) PatF happened to get unlucky, maybe because of “bad marketing” as Disney said, or maybe because Avatar opened just after it and swept the floor with every other movie out there. Whatever the reason, it led Disney to try something new, and this where the new titling began.

I’m going to go through each of the three movies in order and talk about titles, marketing, and why it’s important to note Disney’s approach to each of the movies. All three of these could have had more traditional movie names, but Disney (and Pixar, in the case of Brave) decided to avoid that. So let’s start with Brave.

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As some of you may know, there was a point in time when Brave was going to be called The Bow and the Bear instead.

bear-and-the-bow-preview

However, while some believe this was the initial title, Brave’s producer, Katherine Sarafian, admits that Brave was always the initial title, although they did consider The Bow and the Bear for a while:

Right, first off the title from the very beginning was BRAVE, so BEAR AND THE BOW was actually a later detour and then we came back to BRAVE. (x)

So why Brave? Mic pointed out to me that before Brave, Pixar hadn’t done a female-led movie, so I think that’s part of the name divergence from traditional princess titles. But in a way, Brave’s title tries back to tradition. Unlike Tangled and Frozen, which are more abstract, Brave is a trait, and one that’s at the heart of Merida’s journey. Much like Mulan, Merida’s journey is all about being brave enough to step out of the confines of the role she’s been placed in and change her fate. Early teasers for the movie illustrate this well with her father’s monologue, in which he talks about bravery:

Now, the advertising for Brave is really interesting, because this is where you can see the start of Operation Appeal to Boys. There’s lots of action: darkened forests with dramatic music, Merida on her horse riding quickly through the woods, the scene at the end with the bear and Merida aiming an arrow at it…

brave merida notching arrow

Merida’s face is also concealed for a large chunk of the teaser, which I found interesting. Did the advertisers want to focus less on her gender in fear it would turn away boys?

brave i cant even brave reaction

The later trailers showcase Merida better, but don’t focus much on Merida and her mother’s bond (although it does show them bickering quite a bit):

While this could be in order to avoid showing the twist (which was also part of the reason The Bow and the Bear was nixed as a title option), one might wonder if the mother/daughter bond, a highly important part of the plot, is ignored for fear it wouldn’t appeal to boys. While Brave had some great promos, ignoring Eleanor and Merida’s relationship loses out on a potential alternative way to draw in more viewers. Instead, the relationship comes as a pleasant surprise to those who weren’t expecting it, but is also frustrating at the same time because it gets no promotion.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

brave merida and mom

There is some good in Brave’s promotion though. I like that the promo doesn’t classify bravery as a gendered trait (the use of “we” throughout the trailer). Brave is about a girl being brave, and the trailers showcase that. To this regard, Pixar does a better job at following Disney Princess tradition than Disney does in their next two Princess movies.

Next up: Tangled, where things get really sticky.

tangled-poster-0

Tangled went through quite a few title changes, as well as a ton of creative changes. (The concept was a lot different, and more of a spiritual successor to Enchanted, with two teenagers traveling to a fairytale world as a sort of reverse to Giselle winding up in the real world. Very, very different from the actual movie we got. Sounds cool though.)

Originally, Tangled was supposed to be called Rapunzel Unbraided, which 1) is a really awesome title, and 2) actually tells a lot more about Rapunzel’s journey. Much like Quasimodo, Rapunzel’s story is all about stepping out of her comfort zone, leaving behind the known safety of her tower and venturing out into the unknown to discover the world and see the lights. For this reason, Rapunzel Unbraided would’ve been so much more of a fitting title than Tangled.

rapunzel unbraided

(Note how different the writing is from how Tangled is written. It’s more glittery and “princess-y” – those elements are removed from the final logo to make it appear more “gender-neutral.”)

The styling was also incredibly different. While there was CGI involved, it was more 2D-based, and meant to look like traditional oil paintings in motion. This can be seen in the animation of Rapunzel’s hair for the title sequence, and in early test footage:

rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 1 rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 2

My reaction upon seeing this was:

this is the best reaction

totally awesome starkid reaction

Promptly followed by disappointment that Disney didn’t go in this direction.

stewart reaction why not just pull out my heart

Because Disney did not go in this cool innovative direction. Instead, we got the CGI style that they then uncreatively reused for Frozen.

come on reaction gif

not impressed reaction

:,( As someone who loves animation, this wounds me. Let me grieve what could’ve been.

waiting reaction

ugly sobbing reaction

Next up was the title change to Rapunzel.

rapunzel title

Not too drastic of a change title-wise; it relates back to the actual fairytale it was inspired by, it’s simple and to the point…so why did they change it? WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

It all leads back to Disney’s attempt to appeal to boys. In Disney’s mind, by changing the title to Tangled, it presents a more gender-neutral title. However, it actually ends up relating more to Flynn than it does Rapunzel, since he gets “tangled up” in Rapunzel’s plot. (One of the promos actually has a line that says “it takes two to get tangled,” which proves this point.) The promotion for the movie is also heavily focused on Flynn, making him out as the protagonist and Rapunzel as the Jasmine to his Aladdin, which is definitely not the case in the movie. The promo though, would like you to believe otherwise:

The focus on Flynn and his thieving antics/adventuring are yet another tactic to appeal to boys, and one that, like Brave, leaves out essential plot points like the fact that Rapunzel drives the majority of the movie with her journey. It also leaves out Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s bond, which is hugely importantly to the plot. Again, we have a relationship between two women not shown to “appeal to boys” and it’s very unsettling. It devalues both women’s bonds and our lead woman herself, who doesn’t show up until halfway through the promo.

u serious right now? reaction

It also paints Rapunzel’s character as more of a tough girl/badass, and lacks the nuiance of who she really is as a character. It’s quite frustrating, but since we still have one last movie to cover, I’ll move on. (And express my frustration via gif.)

quinn's disdain reaction gif

Okay, onto Frozen!

disney frozen pic

Frozen was originally supposed to be The Snow Queen, since it was based off the fairytale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson. The direction was a bit different initially, where Elsa was the antagonist rather than Hans. (As seen in early character sketches.

Disney's__The_Snow_Queen_

Thus, the title suggests an Elsa-heavy movie, considering well, she’s the Snow Queen.

seems legit reaction

Obviously over time, the direction changed, and Elsa became more sympathetic in nature. The title also changed to Frozen, which is kind of boring, but also like Brave makes sense in a way, considering how central Elsa and her powers are to the plot. Despite Anna being our protagonist, Elsa’s character arc has more depth and more of an impact on the plot, so the title being more related to her makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the promotion.

The teaser for Frozen contains neither of the female leads and instead focuses on Olaf and Sven.

frozen wait what

That’s right! It focuses on a snowman and a reindeer, both of whom are minor characters. This is so insultingly “let’s avoid mentioning the women” that it makes me angry.

the lord is testing me reaction

It gets worse. The official promo is so insulting in so many ways that it makes me angry.

First, while the trailer focuses on Anna, Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, there’s a certain important character who is extremely neglected: Elsa. Like I said earlier, Elsa is our second protagonist, and drives quite a bit of the plot. But you wouldn’t know that, based on the five seconds we see her. She’s barely even in the trailer, even though she plays a huge part in the movie. It’s ridiculous.

rude copy reaction

Anna and Elsa’s relationship is also noticeably absent. For a movie that prides itself on being built on a sisterly bond, we really don’t see any of that promoted in the trailer. The only indication we get that Elsa and Anna are even related is when Anna says “that’s no a blizzard, that’s my sister!”

tmz 7 reaction

Just like Merida and her mother, and Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, Elsa and Anna’s relationship gets absolutely no focus whatsoever. Again, this gives me uncomfortable vibes that it was excluded in order to appeal more to boys.

Speaking of boys…we get a lot of focus on Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, especially in what I like to call “the most offensive trailer montage ever.”

frozen who 1

frozen who 2

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frozen who 5

rejection reaction

This is such a messy promotional moment. First of all, these three guys are focused on before we even focus on Anna, which is insulting considering she is our protagonist – not Kristoff, not Hans, not Olaf, but ANNA.

Second, calling Anna “no man” is incredibly offensive. By having a category of guys/men and then saying “no man” Anna is being Othered based on her gender, which is really gross.

This whole promo is just not great. It’s misleading, focuses more on the guys in the movie than it does the two main characters, and worse, it has weird sexist undercurrents. By trying to appeal to boys, the advertising shuns girls and worse, Others them. We as a society already have a huge problem with women not being valued and viewed as unimportant, and the dismissive early promotion for Frozen does exactly that. What makes this sadder is that The Snow Queen (the original fairytale) has a lot of crucial female characters. Seeing only two women in the cast – and worse, undermining them and their roles – is spitting on the original tale in an awful way.

star vs. evil sad face

Conclusion

A title says a lot about a story. For Disney, their drastic 180 in titling shows their attempt to hook a male audience by hiding crucial female relationships as well as their female characters. Disney’s titles used to have merit and tell a lot about the story. Now, they feel flat and lack depth. Disney’s next princess movie is Moana. Since the title is reminiscent of older (/more awesome) titles like Pocahontas and Mulan, this could be a sign that they will 180 back and show more respect to their female audience. However, Disney has a lot to prove, and considering how poor their previous promotions have been, I won’t get my hopes up just yet. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings, and hope it’s a lot less rage-inducing.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Animated Meta can be followed on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Pam. (n.d.). What is Gender Role? Retrieved May 29, 2015, from Psychology Dictionary: http://psychologydictionary.org/gender-role/

Sarafian, K. (2012, April 13). Exclusive: Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Pixar’s ‘Brave,’ Talks Director Controversy, Pixar’s Reaction to the Chilly ‘Cars 2′ Reception And More. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from SlashFilm: http://www.slashfilm.com/film-interview-katherine-sarafian-producer-pixars-brave-talks-controversy-marketing-cars-2-reactions/

 

 

 

Let It Go: Empowering or Villainous?

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Let It Go is one of the more interesting Frozen songs, because while it was originally conceived as a villain song, it ended up with an empowering edge and became a power anthem to a lot of its audience. So which is it: villain song or empowerment anthem? I say both. Why? Let’s dig into the lyrics and find out.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

Not a footprint to be seen

A kingdom of isolation

And it looks like I’m the queen

As Mic once said, one of Frozen’s themes is about isolation, but I’m going to go deeper and say that it’s more than that: it’s isolation and fear vs. community and love. In my Children’s Lit class, my professor went into literary themes and talked about how adolescent boy leads often deal with isolation and standing alone as themes, while adolescent girl leads often deal with community, and their bonds with friends/family. For example, Hatchet has a male main character stranded in the wilderness who needs to learn how to survive on his own (isolation/standing alone). Meanwhile, Walk Two Moons has a female main character who goes on a road trip with her grandparents in search of her mother (community/family-oriented). Looking at it that way actually makes Frozen intriguing, because they deal with both isolation and community. Anna is the one seeking community; she wants a closer relationship with Elsa. Elsa goes against the literary norm and is the one seeking isolation. At the start of this song, she finds her “kingdom of isolation” far from the rest of Arendelle.

The imagery at the start of “Let It Go” really plays into the feeling of isolation: we pan in on a lonely cliff, with no one for miles around it, and Elsa trudging through the snow by her lonesome. The melody is soft, almost mournful. Being isolated is not a fun thing, guys.

The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried

frozen elsa fretting

Here we get to delve into Elsa’s true issue: her powers, and how she’s been holding them back for so long. At this point in the movie, we’ve seen Elsa struggling to keep her powers in check in different way: wearing her gloves to center herself, staying away from Anna so she doesn’t hurt her again, staying up in the palace so she can avoid any triggers. That hasn’t really worked out, but here, Elsa has found somewhere that her powers can roam free, and the outside terrain reflects how she feels inside.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know

frozen elsa is a deer in headlights

Well now they know

Society is really weird about emotions, so I feel like this is a verse that a lot of people can relate to. Women are often criticized for being overemotional or too clinical and “icy” while guys are told to be stoic and hold their emotions in. Elsa has done both of these things: her icy reputation comes from her holding her emotions in deep in order to keep her powers in check. “Be the good girl you always have to be” is really interesting, because it speaks to the high standards Elsa is held to: she needs to be good, to maintain her reputation as a queen, and because women are held to high standards in society, especially women in places of power.

However, everything she’s been holding back is already known, so all of her concealing is kind of moot at this point. Thus, we get to the chorus (aka that part that gets stuck in everyone’s heads):

Let it go, let it go; can’t hold it back anymore

frozen let it go

frozen let it go 2

Let it go, let it go; turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on;

The cold never bothered me anyway

Let’s talk about what “let it go” means, because that can be a good thing, and a bad thing. On the positive end, “let it go” can mean letting go of negative influences in your life, like people who don’t have your best interests at heart, or things that don’t make you happy. It means you can “turn away and slam the door” on the people who talk crap about you and move on from them. Example: if Gaston had let go of his vendetta against the Beast, he might have survived the battle at the end of Beauty and the Beast. Instead, he literally lost his grip.

beauty gaston falls

On the more negative end: Let it go” can tie back to isolation, though. Someone can let go of positive elements in their life as well, like family. Here, Elsa is letting go of the people in her life by isolating herself up on the mountaintop, and leaving her sister behind. Isolation is a solution for Elsa in the moment, but it’s a Band-Aid fix; it’s only temporarily going to work out. (We see that later on, when Anna comes looking for Elsa.)

The last two lines are interesting, because while the chorus initially feels like a power anthem, it takes a darker town at the end.

“Let the storm rage on” means that Elsa doesn’t care about stopping the chaos she’s caused; she’ll let it keep going for as long as she wants. And “the cold never bothered me anyway”…

There’s a very selfish feeling to the phrase, because Elsa is putting herself above other people’s needs. It’s good that she’s expressing herself, and not letting people hold her back from that, but it’s bad that she doesn’t care about the welfare of all of the people freezing in Arendelle. It’s also weirdly out of place, because Anna’s appearance later on implies that Elsa had no idea this was even happening. Still, her lines suggest that even if it did, she wouldn’t care, which is pretty callous.

It’s lines like these that call into question the morality involved in “Let It Go,” because while it did become a power anthem, elements of when it was a villain song remain. It has the dramatic flair of one, and certain lines and phrases (like “let the storm rage on”) set up Elsa as an antagonistic figure. This is why I classify it as both: it has villainous origins, but is empowering anyway.

(Side note: Mic suggested that “the cold never bothered me anyway” could relate to Elsa’s perception of her powers, and how they never bothered her until she was taught to fear them, which I thought was an interesting take. Who’s right here, guys? Are we both right?)

Moving on:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all

Away from Arendelle, Elsa has some perspective. Here, where she can express herself freely, her fears aren’t there to bother her, and she can truly dig into her powers without worrying that she’ll harm someone.

It’s time to see what I can do,

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

“I’m free” = being free from society’s expectations, as well as her fears and worries. There’s more gray mortality on display (“no right, no wrong, no rules for me”), but there’s also a giddy sense of adventure as she crafts ice bridges and climbs them, lets snowflakes swirl form her fingertips, forms snowmen.

Elsa hasn’t really been a child, not in the sense that most kids were. The second she hurt her sister and the trolls/her parents made her nervous about her powers, her innocence faded and she’s been locked in a constant struggle to keep everything together.

frozen elsa's innocence ends

Out here, none of that matters, and she can embrace her childish side again with no consequences. I mean, look at the glee on her face!

frozen lil elsa

frozen wheeeee

I am one with the wind and sky

I love this line, because it brings me back to Pocahontas and Colors of the Wind. It gives the song a more spiritual side, letting Elsa be in touch with the world around her and the power inside of her. Elsa has never felt secure in who she is, but for a brief moment, she feels at peace. She is one with her power.

You’ll never see me cry

Great line, because it shows that Elsa has made progress, but she’s still bottling herself up in a way, and that’s something it takes the rest of the movie for her to deal with.

Here I stand, and here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

And more isolation! This song is a goldmine for isolation and angst. Even with the empowering melody, there are a lot of lines that are really painful and harsh, like this one. Elsa is at peace with herself and her power, yes, but she’s also alone. She’s still holding herself back from the world and her sister.

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

First, there are a lot of ice puns (“flurries”, “frozen fractals”, “icy blast”). Second: this is the first time we see Elsa use her power to construct something without fear or anguish. She’s crafting a structure with her power, pushing ice up and out of the earth, letting it spiral into a fortress. She’s creating herself a new home.

I’m never going back; the past is in the past

When Mic did her villain songs meta, she made this really interesting point about how a lot of Disney villains have a point of no return, where they feel they cannot go back, and solidify themselves as an antagonistic force. Here, “I’m never going back” serves to do exactly that. If this were still a villain song, this would be the moment that Elsa sets herself against her sister and cannot be saved. However, because this is a movie built on sisterly love, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

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Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day

This is such a weird stanza for me, because parts of this feel very heroic. There’s a lot of imagery with light, with rising and being triumphant. But it can be read in a darker way. “That perfect girl is gone” sounds like Elsa shedding her label and making something new of herself, which could be a bad thing or a good thing, really. This song is so confused about what it wants to be.

frozen strugglebus reaction

The ending (“let the storm rage on / the cold never bothered me anyway”) doesn’t help clear things up much better either.

frozen cold never bothered me anyway

In the end, I think “Let it Go” has strong lyrics, a very catchy melody, and a lot of conflicting elements buried within it. While it might’ve been nice to see the creators ease out some of the villainous edges to make this more of a triumphant hero taking a stand, it’s also nice to see a character steeped in a darker morality, with the potential to be good or evil. Elsa can either give into fear or embrace love, and in the end, she does the latter and allows her power to truly flourish.

frozen hug

What do you guys think of Let It Go? Would you have liked to see Elsa as more of an antagonistic force? Let us know in the comments.

Animated Meta can be followed on both our Twitter and our Tumblr. Have a nice Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

That’s What Friends Are For: Disney’s Abundance of Animal Friendships

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Last week Mel talked about a really important issue: the lack of female friendships in princess movies. As I was figuring out how to possibly match her level of awesomeness, I realized something. Princess films were lacking in friendships, but Animal movies weren’t!

Lady and the Tramp
Lady has two friends, Jock and Trusty, whom she consults with when Mrs. Darling gets pregnant and who come to comfort her after her escapade with Tramp. They look out for her, getting protective since they dislike Tramp, but realize he’s a decent enough dog and hatch a plan to save him. They also build Lady up, complimenting her collar and just being good friends to her.

lady and the tramp pushing jockTramps’ like, “Eww, friends.”

101 Dalmatians
We don’t really see Pongo and Perdita interacting with other dogs too much, but there is the impression that all dogs look out for each other when Pongo sends out his distress call and all the dogs pass it along. They meet with the Great Dane, who tells them where their puppies are and takes them some of the way, being super helpful and just really kind. Like, all law enforcement people should measure themselves against this animated dog. They meet up with a horse, cat, and dog that help them escape, just showing everyone in the animal world looks out for each other. While Pongo and Perdita don’t have ‘friends’ (though they do have Roger and Anita), they interact with a bunch of animals in a friendly manner.

The Jungle Book
Mowgli is friends with Baloo and Bagheera, the vultures (they even had a song about it!), and an adorable baby elephant. Jungle Book is an interesting example since it is one of the few Disney films without a love story (until that moment at the very end), so as a result, there’s all kinds of friendships and relationships to explore in order to carry the film.

jungle book mowgli baloo hugMowgli’s like, “I like friends!”

The Aristocats
Like 101 Dalmatians, these cats aren’t really interacting with other animals since they’re a tight family unit and are on a mission. However, also like 101, there’s an impression all cats look out for each other, as seen in Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood and Little John are famous, so of course their bond had to be a part of the film. And this song will get in your head and never leave. Sorry not sorry.

The Fox & The Hound
Um, the movie full of feels that we all avoid unless we seriously can’t help it. This one also has a song about friendship because the relationship between Todd and Copper is the heart of the story. Seriously. I’m gonna cry just thinking about it.

Oliver & Company
Oliver’s first friends are the company of Fagin’s gang, but he also befriends Jenny and even wins over her snobbish poodle, Georgette.

oliver and dodger sleep

The Lion King
Before Simba meets Timon and Pumba, he’s friends with Nala—who, yes, he falls madly in love with—and they had epic elephant graveyard adventures together. It’s Nala, his bestie for life, who helps convince him to go back to the Pride Lands and fight Scar.

lion king cutieslion hakuna matata 2 copy

Tarzan
Like Jungle Book, Tarzan was friends with Terk and Tantor. There were also lots of shots of baby gorillas playing together because apparently everyone has friends except princesses.

Brother Bear
This movie hinges on the friendship/brotherhood of Kenai and Koda, similar to The Fox and the Hound.

I’ve blocked Bambi and Dumbo from my mind, but I know Dumbo had a mouse and Bambi had Thumper and Flower.

What gives, Disney? Why do animals have friends but not princesses?????

I mean, it is great we have great examples of friendship in animal focused films and I’m not saying animals shouldn’t have friends. But do we accept this because we think of animals as living in a herd and being surrounded by their own kind? And do we not think of girls as having female friends because girls are pitted against each other and constantly overcoming internalized misogyny everyday?

Animal films also tend to have friendships featuring animals that are enemies in the wild: Simba, Timon and Pumba; Dumbo and his mouse; and Todd and Copper. The message here has to be that we can all get along and shouldn’t be put off by our differences. It’s great to see this message being sent subtly through animal friendships but it is time to be overt! Girls are regularly pitted against each other and taught to see other girls as competitors. Seeing great friendships that they can emulate is important.

Disney can clearly do an amazing job at showing positive friendships, as evidenced above and the few princess friendships we’ve seen, so why won’t they do it in more of their princess/female character driven films?

What do you think?

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Cheers,

M&M

Princesses Need Friends Too: The Problematic Lack of Positive Female Interactions (and Friends) in Disney Princess Movies

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Disney only has two sets of female friendship in the Disney princess movies. I repeat: only two sets of female friends. That’s really, really bad. Come to think of it, Disney Princess movies in general are lacking in positive female interactions. Either we get a lack of women present, or their relationships are antagonistic in nature. There are a few proud exceptions, but not many.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip through the halls of Disney Princess history and explore the nature of female relationships.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The only two women in this movie are Snow White and her stepmother, the Evil Queen. And Snow White’s stepmother spends the majority of the movie trying to kill her because of her beauty, which doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. It’s interesting that the only two women we have in this film have an antagonistic relationship relating to beauty and power; it says a lot about women in society, who are often set up as competitors rather than coworkers. It’s a no for Snow.

mary margaret says no

Cinderella

Good news: Cinderella has a stepmother and stepsisters, which is a step up from Snow White. Bad news: her stepmother is the worst, and her stepsisters aren’t much better.

cinderella and stepmother

Instead of being treated like family, Cinderella is made into a servant by her stepfamily and constantly put down/ridiculed by them. There’s another antagonistic set-up here, with Cinderella’s stepsisters seeking marriage to the prince, and Cinderella inadvertedly coming into competition with them when she meets Prince Charming and falls for him.

There are also a few female mice, but Cinderella doesn’t seem particularly close to them. 😦 So no.

Sleeping Beauty

Our first sign of positive interaction: Sleeping Beauty gives us Briar Rose (aka Aurora) and the three fairies that raise her in seclusion to protect her from Maleficent. While the fairies tend to be a little oblivious, they mean well, and they take good care of Briar Rose. From the few interactions we see of theirs, it’s evident they care a lot about her, and want her to be happy. The surprise party for her birthday is a great example. Despite their no magic rule, they’re willing to go around it to make her present and her cake the absolute best. Nothing but the best for their Briar Rose!

sleeping beautiy cake candles life copy

They also play a key role in getting Prince Phillip free and giving him the tools he needs to defeat Maleficent, so that they can save Aurora. And then there’s that sweet scene when they tuck Aurora in under the sleeping curse, much like a parent tucking their child in.

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While Aurora doesn’t have female friends, since she’s secluded in the woods, the fairies are maternal figures to her, so I’m going to fill this one under “sort of.” It could be better, but it’s progress.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel falls into the start of the “daughters with missing mothers and great relationships with their fathers” trend. Guys, I think Ariel’s relationship with Triton is awesome. And I think it’s important that Disney conveys so many great father-daughter relationships in their films. However, the lack of mother figures is really depressing, and I think it’s sad that like in most of the Disney princess movies, Ariel has a mother who isn’t around. It’s also sad that Ariel is one of seven sisters, and barely even interacts with her sisters throughout the movie. A woman she does interact with a lot is Ursula, the female antagonist, who spends the movie plotting against Ariel, steals her voice, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Eric. No for Ariel.

little mermaid crying

Beauty and the Beast

B&TB doesn’t have a lot of women. The three most prominent ladies in Belle’s village are a set of blonde triplets who aren’t displayed in the best light. They fawn over Gaston and basically exist to be his fangirls.

beauty anf the beast fangirling  copy

In the castle, we have Belle’s wardrobe, who is nice, and we have Mrs. Potts, who is awesome, but she doesn’t interact with either of them a lot. So no.

Aladdin

Jasmine is our only prominent female character, which is really sad, because I would’ve loved if Jasmine had a friend. Poor girl is lonely in that castle with only her tiger to keep her company. Nope.

aladdin done w your shit

Pocahontas

YES. Pocahontas is one of our few Disney princesses with a female best friend, who happens to be awesome. Nakoma and Pocahontas’ friendship is fantastic. They squabble like sisters, gossip about everything (including cute boys), and just hang out like most girls do.

pocahontas nakoma cheeringpocahontas and nakoma assessing men

pocahontas and nakoma 3

Out of the two, Nakoma is the more level-headed and reasonable one, who tries to keep Pocahontas from doing anything too insane. But she’s also loyal, and tries to trust her friend’s judgment, even when she’s a bit unsure of Pocahontas sneaking around with John Smith.

pocahontas and nakoma 2pocahontas and nakoma 1

And while Pocahontas’ mother isn’t around, she does have a grandmother figure around in Grandmother Willow. She’s the one that Pocahontas goes to when she’s in need of guidance, a good listening ear, or just for comfort in times of strife. While Grandmother Willow never tells her what she should doing, she instead teaches Pocahontas to trust her intuition and follow her heart, allowing her to become a stronger leader and have more faith in herself and her decisions.

pocahontas grandmother willow 3pocahontas grandmother willow 2

Mulan

Mulan has won the parental lottery, guys, because she not only has a father and a mother, but she also has a grandmother! Sadly, like a lot of the princesses, Mulan’s bond with her father gets more focus than her bonds with her mother and grandmother. Mulan also doesn’t have any female friends, although in her case, it’s slightly more forgivable considering she’s posing as a man in the army and ends up surrounded by dudes. So no, but one that’s slightly more forgivable than other films due to the circumstances involved.

mulan horse

The Princess and the Frog

Heck yes. This movie is the jackpot of female relationships in my opinion. There is this really awesome close-knit relationship between Tiana and her mother. There’s a years-long friendship between Charlotte and Tiana. There’s even a powerful woman named Mama Odie who assists our heroine on her adventure. But since Mama Odie is more supernatural assistance than friend, I’m going to focus on Tiana and her mom, and Charlotte and Tiana.

Tiana and her mom are awesome and close. We don’t get to see a lot of their interactions, but we get a nice glimpse of them when we see little Tiana, and we get a great scene where Tiana shows her mom the restaurant she wants to lease, which leads into “Almost There.” Unfortunately, after that, we don’t get much interaction from them, since Tiana is a frog for a majority of the movie.

Tiana/Charlotte we do get a lot of. We get a glimpse of little Tiana and little Lottie at the beginning of the movie, showing how long they’ve been friends, and they’re still close when we see them again.

princess and the frog ickle besties

princess and frog lottie and tiana

Despite differing social class and race, Tiana and Lottie have a really strong friendship. Lottie knows Tiana well enough to know she can’t give her bestie any handouts, so she does things like hiring Tiana’s catering services so she can pay her and give her the remaining funds she needs to achieve her dream. She also lends Tiana a new outfit when hers gets ruined at the party, which is total best friend behavior.

princess and the frog

Lottie also cares a lot about Tiana and her happiness. Like Tiana has her restaurant dream, Lottie’s dream is to be a princess. (Which I’m pretty sure a lot of us dreamed of, once upon a time.) When Naveen and Tiana fall in love while they’re stuck as frogs, Lottie offers to kiss him and forgo her dream of marrying into royalty, because she can see how much the two of them care for each other and there’s no way she’s getting in the way of that.

prince and the frog lottie 1princess and the frog lottie 2

These two are fantastic. The whole movie could’ve just been about them being awesome and I would’ve been content.

princess and frog lottie catches the bouquet

Tangled

Tangled has Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, and Rapunzel’s mother. Rapunzel doesn’t get a ton of time with her mother, but we see her with baby Rapunzel at the start, we see her and her husband’s grief after losing their daughter, and we see her at the end when she reunites with Rapunzel. It’s sad we don’t get a ton to go on, but the end of the movie establishes what should be the start of a prosperous mother-daughter relationship, so at least that’s something.

tangled hug

Mother Gothel and Rapunzel have a painfully abusive relationship. Mother Gothel berates and terrifies Rapunzel into submission to break her spirit and keep her in the tower. She wants Rapunzel to be dependent on her, so that she can harass the power of her hair and stay alive. Not exactly a healthy relationship.

tangled gothel bitch 2tangled gothel bitch

She may have a budding relationship forming with her mother, but sadly, Rapunzel doesn’t really have any female friends. Boo.

tangled maximus horse

Brave

I haven’t seen all of Brave, but I do know one thing: Merida, like Tiana, has a close relationship with her mother, and their bond is a big part of the movie’s plot.

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Merida’s mother and Merida don’t always see eye to eye: they have different goals and outlooks, and Merida doesn’t always live up to her mother’s expectations, thus, they butt heads a lot. But Merida cares deeply for her mother, and vice versa. Merida’s accidental wish – and her attempt to undo it – bring mother and daughter closer together as the movie goes on.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

I think this is probably the biggest mother-daughter focus we get out of any of the Disney Princess movies, which is pretty awesome because the bulk of Disney Princess relationships tend to be between fathers/daughters, or a princess and their significant other.

brave merida and mom

While we do get a mother-daughter relationship, Merida doesn’t have any female friends though, which is sad. Maybe we can get one in a sequel? 😉

Frozen

And finally, we have Frozen. Frozen is kind of a weird one, because the only two prominent women in the movie are the leads, Anna and Elsa. Anna and Elsa sisters, who used to share a close bond that Anna is hoping to rekindle, despite Elsa’s avoidance of her. However, Frozen doesn’t do a great job of displaying their relationship.

frozen strugglebus reaction

Elsa and Anna are separated for a majority of the movie, and while they connect a little at the palace after Elsa’s coronation, they’re quickly separated afterwards, and only interact for a short time before Elsa’s powers freeze Anna’s heart and Anna and Kristoff are forced to flee. Next interaction: Anna steps in just in time to stop Hans from cutting down Elsa. Her act of true love both saves Elsa and defrosts her own heart, which is a nice twist.

frozen hug

I think Frozen is a draw for me. Elsa and Anna are close, and I enjoy the bond between them. It would’ve been nice though to see their bond better fleshed out, and see more women in the movie in general.

 

Conclusion (Aka, Why Is This So Important, Mel?)

feminist rant reaction

Much like the Bechdel test, checklisting whether a movie contain female friendships or not doesn’t mean that it is a failure. However, it’s telling that there are only two prominent female friendships, and three strong mother-daughter bonds, within 12 Disney princess movies. Why are father-daughter bonds and romantic bonds prioritized over female friendships and mother/daughter bonds? Why are so many of the female interactions in Disney films negative and antagonistic in nature? In a society where women are torn down, pitted against each other, and strive to be “one of the boys”, positive female interactions in Disney movies, especially Disney princess movies, might promote stronger female relationships in everyday life for young girls and women. (It would also be good for boys as well, and it’d be nice to see more parents take an initiative to be more gender-neutral, but that’s another post in itself.)

Do you think Disney movies need more positive female interactions? What are your favorite Disney bonds? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheers,

M&M

Talking Animals, Class, and Rank

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Disney made a slew of animal centered films between the Pre-Renaissance Princesses Era and the Renaissance Era. All these movies, surprisingly, tackle similar issues of greed and class. Let’s take a closer look at these films and see what it has to say on the topic, how it says it, and why Disney chose animals as its messengers.

I was a little surprised to notice a whole crop of animal films all made relatively right after each other. Here’s a list:

  • Lady and the Tramp—1955
  • (Sleeping Beauty—1959)
  • 101 Dalmatians—1961
  • (The Sword in the Stone—1963)
  • The Jungle Book—1967
  • The Aristocats—1970
  • Robin Hood—1973
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh—1977
  • The Rescuers—1977
  • The Fox and the Hound—1981

Look at that! 30 years of animal centered tales with one only two human stories. With the exception of some of the latter films—Winnie the Pooh and The Fox and the Hound—all those films have subtle or overt themes of wealth and rank.

Lady and the Tramp
Even the title is laced with that theme of class. While ‘tramp’ is not a title, ‘lady’ certainly is. However, the word ‘tramp’ carries enough weight that you know something negative is being expressed.

It’s the story of two dogs from differing class status. It’s amazing how even the design of the dogs shows this. Lady’s droopy ears appears more like curly hair than fur. She has a shine to her, while Tramp has grey fur and the hair around his mouth looks a little scraggly. Lady also has a fancy collar, almost like jewelry. The design of these dogs effortlessly conveys that there is a difference between them.

lady and the tramp 2 Those could totally be pig tails 😉

lady and the tramp relaxing Lady actually sparkles in comparison to him.

Setting wise, Lady’s home is huge. I think it has a Victorian mansion feel, but I’m not an architecture buff. Compare that lavish setting to Tramp’s rail yard:

lady and the tramp house vs lady and the tramp rail yard

A note about the animation, look at even the difference in the brightness of the colors.

Lady has free reign of the house: from a puppy she climbed upstairs and settled herself right on that big comfy bed.

lady and the tramp bby on bed cute

Tramp, on the total flip side, sleeps outside, near the trains. His morning routine is shown in contrast to Lady’s. While she runs outside and gets the paper (and chases birds, how idyllic), only to be rewarded by Jim Dear with coffee and a donut, Tramp has to bath himself where he can and beg for food.

lady and the tramp lady's comfy bedlady and the tramp tramp's log home

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She has love and he’s alone and excuse me while I:

it hurts so much reaction

Later, when Tramp wanders into Lady’s posh neighborhood, he calls it, “Snob hill.” That’s one of the biggest details that always sticks out to me. Not only are they of different ranks, but there is conflict between them. There is dislike, maybe jealousy, probably gross assumptions on both sides. Tramp finds the fences around trees absurd and expects there to be a lid on every trash can. He refers to them as “the leash and collar set” and assumes they’re total bores.

lady and the tramp fence on every tree Look at the fences 😉 Tramp disapproves.

Lady’s friends Trusty and Jock definitely have prejudices against Tramp simply because he doesn’t come from a well off family like them. Jock calls him a “mongrel,” partly because he doesn’t like Tramp scaring Lady, but also just out of initial dislike. Their parting words, though, have to be the best.

“The name’s Jock.”
“Okay, Jock.”
“Heather Lad O’ Glencairn to you!”

lady and the tramp angry jock

Like Jock has an actual title and Tramp is so beneath him!

But let’s move onto the actual relationship that develops between Lady and Tramp. The love to end all loves! Not really. Kinda. Anyway!

“What are you doing on this side of the tracks?” If any (all) of you were like, “Mic, you’re taking this way too seriously,” Tramp actually admits there is a class difference. SO HA!

victory screech reaction

Besides Jock, Trusty, and Lady, there are two other characters that symbolize the upper class: the Siamese Cats. I don’t want to say too much about them because they are a pretty racist interpretation, but they do relate in terms of class.The Siamese Cats are our example of the upper class that live up to Tramp’s assumptions. Lady is the heroine, we root for her. She’s good and kind and we watch her learn about babies and step out of her comfort zone. She’s the one mistreated by Aunt Sarah. Lady is not the definition of “Snob Hill.”

lady and the tramp status

She definitely cares about her appearance and the fact that she has a collar values a lot to her. But she’s not shallow; there’s more to her.

lady and the tramp morning birdslady and the tramp newspaper morning

She’s open to Tramp’s pessimistic view of babies when she first meets him, she accepts his help getting the muzzle off, and she falls in love with him. So we need characters that uphold Tramp’s worldview and thus we have the Siamese Cats.

The differences between classes are also seen outside Lady and Tramp’s relationship. One of the biggest threats is being caught by the dog snatcher and sent to the pound. Who is at risk for being sent to jail? Unlicensed dogs, aka lower class dogs. We can easily relate this to being homeless or living in poverty since any “money” one had would go to securing food and shelter, not buying a collar.

lady and the tramp hiding from snatcher

“The pressure’s really on, signs all over town.” Tramp’s words imply that this has been building for awhile and now things have really gotten out of control. The order also comes from City Council, which is similar to situations we’ve seen all over history. The government mistreating poorer classes instead of finding ways to help them. Yes, I am seriously seeing a movie about adorable dogs as having immense symbolism. Just go with it. Tramp also does not reach “Snob Hill” until he runs from the dog snatcher. The dog snatcher was not putting up signs in the wealthy area of town.

When Lady is caught without a collar, we finally see the situation at the pound. It turns out to be a kill shelter (which, oh my gosh, dark much, Disney?), but that also tells us how different classes are treated. Lady receives special treatment—the dog snatcher takes pity on her because she doesn’t appear like a street dog. He finds her owner right away. The other dogs are not so lucky and even appear to be wearing jail suits.

lady and the tramp jail

After Tramp gets sent to the pound by Aunt Sarah, the dog snatcher says they’d been looking for “this one” for months, which confirms what I said above about it seeming like unleashed dogs were being targeted for awhile now. The fact that Aunt Sarah, the dog snatcher, Jock, and the Darlings immediately assume Tramp was attacking a baby, that there was no other explanation, further proves how the upper class looks down on the lower class.

lady and the tramp evil rat EVIL RAT! RUN!

But when Jock finds out the truth, he is ashamed and says, “I misjudged him… badly.” He’s not just talking about assuming the worst of Tramp in this moment. He’s referring to the first meeting and everything after.

There’s also meaning in having Tramp referred to as “this one.” Tony gave Tramp a name–Butch–because he values Tramp. But the dog snatcher does not. I believe he calls Lady “pretty” when she’s in the pound, proving his bias against wealthy vs poor. The names we choose to call people (dogs, whatever) says a lot about a person.

But by the end, Tramp and Lady are together and happy with a litter of puppies. Tramp gets a collar, joining Lady’s class. I found it interesting that many early novels followed this idea of a courtship plot, that eventually ended in marriage and some social mobility (one person entering another class through marriage). That is essentially what happens here.

lady and the tramp end family 1

Tramp and Lady fall in love, get together, and Tramp moves into a new class. He’s accepted by Lady’s family and Jock and Trusty. He’s no longer under threat from the dog snatcher.

lady and the tramp end collar

Lady and the Tramp is a really interesting film since it delves into these issues. There’s prejudice and class differences and puppy love. Was that a pun? I don’t know.

that's not funny reaction Tough crowd.

Class/Wealth in Other Films
My original plan was to talk about how each movie displayed class/rank/greed. Maybe I’ll come back to it at another point and go more in depth for certain movies. But I think just by looking at them, you can see for yourself.

101 Dalmatians is more about greed than class. Cruella lets her desire for a fur coat get the better of her, stealing puppies to get what she wanted. Maybe there’s something to say about class, since she despises Roger and makes fun of his music while thinking herself so refined.

The Jungle Book is all about class/rank since we have man vs animal and also hierarchy in the jungle. The animals fear Shere Khan. I’m not actually sure where King Louie stands in relation to everyone—it’s been awhile, I need to watch the movie again. The animals are initially reluctant to accept Mowgli because he’s human; they don’t trust him. Purely because of his class (or species… whatever).

The Aristocats is also about greed, especially because of the evil butler dude that wants to inherit money he doesn’t even deserve. BUT, look at that title! It’s a direct pun on aristocrats, which, um, is a term used in relation to class and wealth. Even the name Duchess, as our mommy cat is called, relates to class. It’s an interesting parallel to Lady, who is also named a title while Tramp and Thomas O’Malley the Alley Cat are just names that convey something about the character. Subtle, you are not, Disney.

Robin Hood might as well have my theme tattooed on its forehead. It’s all about someone stealing from the rich to feed the poor. CLASS, CLASS, CLASS. No explanations needed. I do wonder why Disney chose to adapt this story by using animals, though. Was it just to continue with their theme of animal movies?

So Winnie the Pooh totally has nothing to do with the theme (as far as I know?), but I included it because it was an animal film.

The Rescuers I’m fuzzy on, but I remember Madame Medusa trying to steal diamonds or something.

The Fox and The Hound is another animal movie and I think this is where Disney kinda strayed away from the class theme. Winnie the Pooh didn’t have those themes present, The Rescuers did, but wasn’t as steeped in it, though it was also an animal film. Fox and the Hound definitely had undertones of discrimination based on species (class, if you REALLY want to try to make an argument for it), but wasn’t really about rank and wealth. And alas, the talking animal movie trend was put to rest.

I think it’s really interesting this trend developed. Did Disney find it easier to explore these themes using animals as stand ins for humans? Can animals get away with more than humans? Was Disney able to discuss these themes in more subtle ways by going this route?

Can you see themes of class/wealth in these movies? What do you think? Do you have a favorite film of the Talking Animals Era?

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Cheers,
M&M