Category Archives: pocahontas

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Cheers,

M&M

Animated Love Songs (Part 1)

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This week is Valentine’s Day, so we wanted to do something fun to change things up. This week is the week of Animated Love Songs, both Disney and non-Disney. Mic and I have decided to co-write, so we’ve marked each song to show who’s waxing poetic about it. I hope you guys enjoy this!

A Whole New World – Aladdin (Mel)

Aladdin is one of my absolute favorite Disney movies ever and I fangirl shamelessly about Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship. They’re the definition of a badass power couple. Thus, I’m super excited to talk about “A Whole New World” – aka, their epic song.

We start with Aladdin’s awesome promise to show Jasmine the world:

I can show you the world: shining, shimmering, splendid

Tell me, princess, now when did you last let your heart decide?

He’s appealing to Jasmine’s sense of adventure and he brings up a great point. Jasmine’s never really had a chance to follow her heart because of her duties, and now, she’s getting a chance to listen to her heart and go for what she wants with Aladdin.

“A Whole New World” is interesting because Jasmine is in on the secret with the audience now: she knows that Aladdin = Prince Ali, and so there’s also a sense of glee that she’s found this boy she deeply cared for and worried about earlier in the story. Also, she doesn’t really fall for “Ali” until she realizes he’s Aladdin. Aladdin’s attempts to be something he’s not don’t really get him anywhere. It’s this song, where he opens up and shows his true self, where he wins her over. Because who would not want Aladdin?

aladdin flower

A whole new world

A new fantastic point of view

No one to tell us no, or where to go

Or say we’re only dreaming

Both Aladdin and Jasmine are tired of always being told what to do. Aladdin’s been kicked around for being a street rat and no one’s really appreciated who is he. He was born a street rat and he’ll die a street rat, but he’s defying that expectation. Meanwhile, Jasmine’s been harassed about getting married, and having to stay behind the palace walls, but she’s sick of that. This moment is a little taste of rebellion against everyone who’s ever told them they can’t be who they want to be, or go where they want to go.

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings

Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling

Through an endless diamond sky

This is probably one of my favorite bits of the song. Jasmine’s delight and awe at getting to see all of Agrabah, finally, is wonderful. All she ever really wanted was to get out of the palace and find someone she loved, and she’s accomplished both in one fell swoop.

I’m like a shooting star, I’ve come so far

I can’t go back to where I used to be

After all that she’s seen, and all she’s experienced with Aladdin, she can’t go back to the sheltered girl she was before. And honestly, she doesn’t want to.

Every turn a surprise,

Every moment red letter;

I’ll chase them anywhere,

There’s time to spare;

Let me share this whole new world with you

(Small note: I actually had a great debate about whether the second line was “red letter”/”gets better” with Mic earlier; it was fun.)

Anyway, basically, these two crazy kids are enjoying their whole new world, filled with adventure and excitement. They want to enjoy the moment (“there’s time to spare”) and share the new world they’ve discovered.

A whole new world (A whole new world)

That’s where we’ll be (that’s where we’ll be)

A thrilling chase, a wondrous place

For you and me

Jasmine’s found the adventure she wants, Aladdin’s found the respect he wants, and they’re both pretty happy with this whole new world they’ve uncovered. We even get some hand-holding and fireworks – that’s basically official couple status right there. 😉

 

Far Longer Than Forever – The Swan Princess (Mic)

The love song in The Swan Princess is interesting since it happens when the lovers are apart. This song is a way to connect them, to bridge the gap.

I close my eyes and I am where you are

And with your love I’ll never be alone

It’s also a very flowery song, comparing their love to the sun and how meant to be they are. Funny, considering they’ve been paired together their whole lives with the expectation they’ll marry, and Odette and Derek have rebelled against that notion their entire lives.

swan princess gross odetteswan princess derek kissing hand

“This is My Idea” is a montage of their adolescence full of scowling and pranking and “ughhh, dad, I don’t want to go see Derekkkk,” and then this is NOT my idea turns into this is my idea.

As sure as the dawn brings the sunrise

We’ve an unshakable bond

Destined to last for a lifetime and beyond

Look, I adore this song. I do, truly. It’s just that Odette rejects Derek when he wants to marry her because of her beauty and that’s not enough for her. Odette knows that’s not what love is. She leaves him, so they haven’t seen each other since, nor did they part on good terms.

swan princess is beauty all that matters to you

The rational part of me could buy a love song a little more understated that did not declare their love “as constant as a star,” since after all this had happened with zero follow up.

However, they have known each other since childhood, which is longer than most animated couples. Maybe a part of Odette knew Derek didn’t just love her pretty face—he was just too dumb to put words together—and she jumped on his idiocy to turn him down because she was afraid. Her change of heart is never addressed once he saves her. And neither is the deepening of Derek’s feelings.

But that’s the rational side of me. The fangirl part that adores this movie and thinks Odette is the prettiest thing and Derek is cute and “You should write a book: How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less,” is one of the best lines ever, loves this this song. The flowery language, the longing, the not feeling alone BECAUSE LOVE. I can’t get enough of it.

I also love how Odette wants to save herself.

 If I could break this spell

I’d run to him today

And somehow I know he’s on his way to me

Odette tried to escape. She had a big song about it with her puffin, turtle, and frog friends. It just didn’t work. And later, she is the one that finds Derek and leads him to her (since boy is clueless, okay?), but she can’t break the spell. But she takes solace in knowing her partner is trying to save her. Tis one less thing to worry about.

So, yes, is Far Longer Than Forever a tad over the top? Is it cheesy? Is it everything movies tell us about love? Yes, yes, and yes. Do I care? No, no, no.

 

I See the Light – Tangled (Mel)

tangled the lights

“I See the Light” has a gorgeous montage involving the lights. It’s a great song, because it’s not only a love song, but it’s also about realizing your dreams – and discovering new ones. One of the best parts of Tangled to me is its message  about dreams. When you achieve your dreams, you discover new ones. And sometimes, what you’ve dreamed of isn’t always what you expected it to be. Your dreams change and grow along with you, which we see very clearly in Rapunzel and Eugene’s lyrics. Let’s start with Rapunzel:

All these days, watching from the windows

All these years, outside looking in

All that time, never even knowing

Just how blind I’ve been

Rapunzel’s first verse actually has a dual-sided meaning. The obvious one is that Rapunzel is sheltered and she’s never really known much about the world outside her walls. Much like Quasimodo, Rapunzel’s grown up naïve and scared of venturing outside her comfort zone. But once she does, she realizes how blind she’s been – and how much the world has to offer her. The second, less obvious meaning, relates to her feelings for Eugene. She’s been blind to how she feels about him, until now anyway.

Now I’m here, blinking in the starlight

Now I’m here, suddenly I see

Standing here, it’s oh so clear

I’m where I’m meant to be

Here’s our triumphant “I got what I wanted” moment. Rapunzel wanted to see the lights, and now she understands that this is where she’s meant to be. She was meant to see them, and she feels accomplished. Again, since this is a love song, we can also tie that back to Eugene: she was meant to be here – with him.

tangled rapunzel lights

I’m going to come back to Rapunzel’s want/dream soon, but first I’m going to change stride and focus on Eugene’s verses. We’ll come back to the pretty chorus later.

All those days, chasing down a daydream

All those years, living in a blur

All that time, never truly seeing

Things the way they were

Remember what I said earlier, about how what you dream of isn’t really what you expect it to be? That applies perfectly to Eugene. He’s realizing now that his dream isn’t really all that it was cracked up to be. Just like he’s opened up Rapunzel’s perspective and shown her the truth about the world outside the walls of her tower, she’s opened him up to a world he never really imagined – and the love he never thought he wanted. In the interlude before his verse begins, Rapunzel offers him the bag with the crown in it, and while the Eugene at the start of the story would’ve snatched that right up, he doesn’t even bother looking inside. He doesn’t care about that anymore, because he’s realized there’s more to life than the life he had before, all thanks to Rapunzel.

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Now she’s here, shining in the starlight

Now she’s here, and suddenly I know

If she’s here, it’s crystal clear

I’m where I’m meant to go

While his old dream isn’t really working out for him, he’s found a new dream in Rapunzel. She’s his guiding light, and he knows that she has led him to the path he needs to be on. Unlike Rapunzel’s “I’m where I’m meant to be,” which signifies the completion of her dream, Eugene’s “I’m where I’m meant to go” signifies the start of a brand new dream.

tangled rapunzel eugene lights

Now, let’s go back to that chorus:

And at last I see the light, and it’s like a fog has lifted

And at last I see the light, and it’s like the sky is new

And it’s warm and real and right,

And the world has somehow shifted

All at once, everything looks different

Now that I see you

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This is important: the chorus pops up twice.

The first time, it’s sung by solely Rapunzel, after her verses end. The “now that I see you” occurs just as she turns and sees Eugene. Now, why is that important? Well, Rapunzel’s completed her dream to see the lights. And now, she’s realizing she has a new dream: Eugene. Now that she sees him, it’s clear that she wants him, and that she’s realized the depth of her feelings for him.

The second time, it’s a true duet. The inner monologues end, and Rapunzel and Eugene come together to sing their feelings out like a true Disney couple. It shows that they’re not afraid to express how they feel about one another, and also that they’re on the same page about their feelings.

The chorus is all about what it’s like to gain perspective. “A fog has lifted.” “The sky is new.” These are lines that relate to that moment when everything becomes clear, and suddenly you realize what’s most important to you. For our protagonists, that’s them realizing their feelings for one another, and how important they are to each other. Now, everything is different. They’ve shed their past dreams and started a brand new dream, together.

 

So This Is Love – Cinderella (Mel)

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I am such a sap about Cinderella, so prepare for lots of gushing about this song.

So This Is Love is Cinderella and Prince Charming’s love song, and it’s pretty adorable. It’s an interesting case where there’s a duet, but neither part is actually singing out loud. Instead, it’s internal monologue about how they feel about finding love.

So this is love -humming-

So this is love

So this is what makes life divine

It’s important to focus on the visuals here. We get to see a close up of Cinderella and the Prince’s radiant grins, and the way they stare at each other in awe as they dance. It’s easy to see how enthralled Cinderella is with the Prince, and vice versa. For Cinderella, who’s grown up without much love after her father’s death, finding love with someone like the Prince certainly “makes life divine.”

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I’m all aglow -humming-

And now I know (and now I know)

The key to all heaven is mine

“The key to all heaven is mine” relates to their feelings for one another: meeting one another has unlocked all kinds of happiness that neither of them even knew existed. There’s a Katy Perry somewhere that says “they say you know when you know,” and Cinderella and Prince Charming certainly seem to know that this is love, and this is the love they need to find eternal happiness with one another.

My heart has wings -humming again-

And I can fly

I’ll touch every star in the sky

This part is really beautiful to me, because the wings and flying metaphor ties in so well for Cinderella, who’s always been grounded by the cruelty her stepfamily shows toward her. She always had the faith that she would get out of her situation and the determination to never give up on her dreams, but now she’s found someone who makes her heart soar, and gives her more hope than she had before. With the Prince, she sees a new route opening, and he could be exactly what she needs to get out of her grim living situation.

So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of

So this is love

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We know that Cinderella’s been dreaming of miracles, but this also brings up the interesting point that the Prince has been looking for a wife, so he’s probably been dreaming that he’ll find someone that he loves deeply and wants to spend the rest of his life with. And while Cinderella’s found an escape in love, he’s found a future in his love for her as well. Ah, young love.

 

Once Upon a Dream – Sleeping Beauty (Mic)

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This is a song that has about five lyrics repeated over and over again. It’s a very dreamy (get it?) perception of love and has touches of pre-destination in it. Like, they “met” in a dream, okay? There’s no depth to this song or this interpretation of love.

Mel would like to  add that the pre-destination feeling could be because they’ve met before, and can be why they’re so familiar to each other. Their original meeting feels like it happened once upon a dream.

I think, more so, this song speaks to us about Aurora and how alone she feels. Her only friends are some woodland creatures and she’s been raised by three fairies in the middle of nowhere.

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We don’t really know what her relationship with them is like, but it doesn’t seem like the fairies are very adept at parenting since they still can’t do anything without magic after sixteen years.

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So Aurora wants love and that makes sense.

Yet I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do

You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

I think this first line definitely shows us that she’s been let down in love (the fairies?) before. Or she’s heard stories. But this also goes back the fairy tale aspect of most Disney films. True Love, Happily Ever After, etc. Lots of people don’t believe in those, or think it’s cheesy. People get hurt, a lot of times it doesn’t work out. But this song is basically telling you not to be a cynic. Sure, things don’t work out, dreams don’t always come true, but this time…

Or it’s a song about a guy and a girl meeting in woods and admiring the gleam in each other’s eyes. I don’t know.

 

Learn to Do It (Waltz Reprise) – Anastasia (Mel)

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Anastasia’s love song is interesting, because not only is it a reprise, but it’s not sung from the perspective of either of the couple. In fact, it’s from the matchmaker’s perspective, as he realizes that he’s inadvertedly pushed Dimitri and Anastasia together in the midst of their scheme.

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It’s one, two, three,

And suddenly, I see it at a glance

She’s radiant, and confident,

And born to take this chance

Here, Vladimir admires his handiwork; watching Anastasia dance proves to him that he made the right choice, choosing her for his con. By bringing out her confidence and teaching her about Anastasia’s life, he and Dimitri have gotten her ready for this. She’s “born to take this chance” – which fits in more ways than one, considering Anya actually is the lost Anastasia.

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The “it” Vladimir refers to could also refer to the romance between Dimitri and Anya, which he gets into here:

I taught her well, I planned it all,

I just forgot… romance

Vladimir may have planned out everything, but he forgot to plan for the unexpected. He didn’t realize that despite Dimitri and Anya’s initial distaste for each other, they might end up falling in love. And here’s where he’s bittersweet about the whole thing.

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Obviously, he wants Dimitri to be happy, considering how close they are, but the emotional attachment might cause issues for them, and he doesn’t want his best friend to get hurt. At this point, he’s also grown fond of Anya, so he’s worried about them both. He scolds himself, saying:

Vlad, how could you do this?

How will we get through this?

I should have never let them dance

But unfortunately for Vladimir, it’s a little too late to sulk about it, so he’s just going to have to deal with the fact that Dimitri and Anya are falling for one another. (And lucky for him, and them, it ends up working out in the end.)

anastasia kiss

One interesting thing I noticed when I watched this scene was the way that Dimitri and Anya move in perfect harmony when they waltz. It shows their connection, and how normally stubborn Anya lets Dimitri take the lead, trusting him not to screw things up. I thought that was a nice touch to foreshadow this romance, and how opening up to one another and trusting each other is ultimately what strengthens a relationship. You can’t have a relationship without trust, after all.

 

Love – Robin Hood (Mic)

Love is a super short song in Robin Hood. The singer has this very dreamy quality to her voice that emphasizes this idea that love changes you, everything happens in a bubble:

Once we watched a lazy world go by

Now the days seem to fly

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While this song talks about love surpassing death and going on forever and being more precious than life, it also personifies love. That really threw me off.

Love

It seems like only yesterday

You were just a child at play

Now you’re all grown up inside of me

robin hood ring so cute

At first I was like, “Umm… okay weird.” But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Yes, we all have the capacity to love as children. Love has always been… inside us… but it’s not until we grow up that we learn how to really love another person romantically. We start out loving our family and ourselves–and most of the time we have to learn how to love ourselves, too. Sadly, it’s not innate. As we make friends, we learn how to love them and be good friends in return. In the same fashion, we also stumble around in the dark when it comes to romantic love.

robin hood love

Love matures as we mature. I think that’s a great message to send.

 

If I Never Knew You – Pocahontas (Mel)

If I Never Knew You is interesting because it was originally a deleted scene that they cut from the theatrical release due to it making the film drag a bit. Fun fact: they did add it back in on the 10th year anniversary when it was rereleased on DVD. It’s also that song in the credits of Pocahontas, so you’ve likely heard it before if you’ve see the movie all the way through.

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Anyway, this scene is really sweet, and builds off the dialogue Pocahontas and John Smith share, when she visits him the night before her father is going to execute him. She tells him that she thinks it would be better if they’d never met, and he tells her: “I would rather die tomorrow than live a hundred years without knowing you.”

One of the most important things about this song is the fact that it makes a really excellent point. Who would John Smith be if he’d never met Pocahontas?

pocahontas you think the only people who are people

There are two really great sets of lines where he muses about this:

If I never knew you, if I never felt this love

I would have no inkling of how precious life can be

(AND)

If I never knew you, I’d be safe but half as real

Without Pocahontas, John Smith wouldn’t be the man that he is now. At this point, he’s come a long way from the man who thinks of the New World as “a land I can claim, a land I can tame.”

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Pocahontas’ influence has shown him a whole new perspective. Without her to push him and challenge his views, he may have never gained that perspective.

(That sound you hear is Mic sobbing uncontrollably.)

I really, really love that second line in there: “I’d be safe but half as real.” There’s a saying that you’ve probably heard: ignorance is bliss. If John Smith had never met Pocahontas, he would be safe, since he probably wouldn’t even be in this situation, about to be executed. His former beliefs would also be safe from scrutiny. But, again, he’d only be “half as real.” He gets a nice dose of reality from Pocahontas in “Colors of the Wind,” and that’s ultimately what forces him to take a look at himself and how he views the world. He values what he’s gained from knowing her, and even though he knows he would be safer not knowing her, he also wouldn’t be the man that he is now, so it wouldn’t really be worth it.

pocahontas if i never knew you 5pocahontas if i never knew you 6

In this world so full of fear,

Full of rage and lies,

I can see the truth so clear

In your eyes

I thought this was actually a really interesting stanza to include, considering that this song takes place right in between Savages Parts 1 and 2. “Savages” is all about the misconceptions both sides carry about one another, and the lies that they believe about one another. Both sides are filled with rage and fear toward each other. But Pocahontas and John Smith have moved past the misconceptions and seen the truth in one another.

I thought our love would be beautiful

Somehow we’d make the whole world bright

I never knew that fear and hate could be so strong

Here, Pocahontas is realizing that love can’t always conquer all; they never thought that their love could make things worse, and that fear and hatred could overcome everything they were working to prevent.

But still my heart is singing, we were right

But, despite the hardships, they know that they’re in the right. Because they are in love, and because they’re taken the time to understand each other’s side and learn about one another, they have a clearer view of one another and they know their truth. They just have to prove it to everyone else (which they end up doing).

There are also some really great callbacks to other songs earlier on in the movie. We get flashbacks of Colors of the Wind. That song references how they’re all connected to each other “in a circle, in a hoop that never ends,” and the two of them are intertwined throughout the song.

pocahontas if i never knew you 3

Compare that to here:

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And in a callback to “Just Around the Riverbend,” Pocahontas sees herself and John Smith reflected in the water, and John Smith disappears, much like Kocoum did.

pocahontas should i marry kocoum

But this time, John Smith is the one letting go of her hand, while Pocahontas was the one who let Kocoum go. It’s symbolic of how they know that tomorrow, he will be gone, and his goodbye to her, in a way.

pocahontas farewell 1pocahontas farewell 2

Also, note the way that John Smith looks up from the darkness and turns his face to the light when he’s alone at the end of the song. Even though his situation is dark and grim, he has hope, all because he knew her.

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We’ll be back with more songs on Saturday! What are your favorite animated love songs? And who are your favorite animated couples? Let us know what you think in the comments.

You can follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter! I hope you guys have a lovely Tuesday!

Cheers!

M&M

Disney Villain Songs: Part One

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Not too long ago, Mel did an amazing series where she analyzed Disney Princess “I Want” songs. Let’s start 2015 by spotlighting the villains we love to hate and hate to love.

Disney is most famous for their animated musicals and fairy tales, but the Villain Song only really came to fruition with Disney’s Renaissance and the creation of The Little Mermaid. Think about it, Snow White had an I Want song, but The Evil Queen didn’t. Cinderella had an I Want song, but The Evil Stepmother (Lady Tremaine) didn’t. Disney villains got much more fleshed out with every movie—including their names (come on, Evil Queen? Were they even trying?).

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I don’t know either, Ariel.

Many Disney movies don’t have clean cut villains like The Evil Queen, but even she represents something deeper. The Evil Queen is symbolic of jealousy, while other films like the Jungle Book are about the danger man poses to animals and nature. The Aristocats is more so about what greed can drive someone to do. How do you give that a song? The nature of how Disney tells their stories has changed, with the Renaissance films focusing more on individual characters and growth. By that logic, the villains needed to evolve to cause a threat to the main character. The villains had to become less abstract.

Pre-Renaissance Songs

There are two slight exceptions to this pre-Renaissance rule, however. Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians both feature Disney villains in the pre-Renaissance era that have songs sung ABOUT them.

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Peter Pan has A Pirate’s Life and The Elegant Captain Hook, which are kind of one song, but whatever. Hook has his own boy band singing his praise and it totally works since all the Lost Boys, John, and Michael are ready to sign up to a life of piracy in seconds. Hook himself only gets about a chorus where he threatens everyone’s life:

A special offer today I’ll tell you what I’ll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
Why it’s like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I’ll be frank
Unless you do, you’ll walk the plank
The choice is up to you

Definitely villain song material—and I’ve never seen one done so elegantly. This is the first Disney film where the antagonist sings and it’s typical MUAHAHA villainy.

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Similar to Hook, except she doesn’t sing at all because who has time for that, Cruella De Vil has a song about her in 101 Dalmatians. The song heralds her arrival and tells the audience how we’re supposed to feel about her. I mean, “devil woman,” and “if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” speak for themselves.

Cruella is also framed in the doorway very creepily and Roger’s ominous tone continue to lead the audience. It’s not like Cruella makes a much better first impression when we finally meet her, blowing smoke everywhere, searching like a madwoman for the puppies, her holier than thou attitude.

101 blast this pen101 this wretched pen

Once she leaves, the song continues and Roger has many more insults to spew, which the audience is probably agreeing with at this point.

Now, onto the Disney Renaissance, which gave us music and dastardly foes!

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Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ursula’s song in The Little Mermaid gives us so much to think about. First we get a little of her backstory:

…in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch

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Ursula tries to paint herself as a saint now. She uses magic (“a talent [she’s] always possessed”) to help the “miserable, lonely, and depressed.” Of course she can’t hide her true nature and whispers to her cronies that she finds her clients “pathetic.” Or she finds exploiting Ariel too easy it’s just pathetic. I love double meanings.

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She’s manipulating Ariel with a false version of herself, claiming she helps so many people and makes their lives better. She’s promising Ariel the same thing.

The next facet of the song is men’s views of women, something we’ve covered briefly in our other Little Mermaid meta.

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

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The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man

Today, this is vastly considered an outdated, wrong opinion to have. But it is so ingrained in our society that some people don’t even realize they still have these views. Women are encouraged to have a career, to use their voice, but women still earn less than a man, they do not hold as many positions of leadership, and many times their ideas are not taken seriously until a male colleague suggests it.

A woman’s looks are still very important, too. There are unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to. Everyone knows how the media warps and twists things, but what about women in power? There are countless articles about what Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge are wearing, their make-up, or their hair instead of what these women are actually doing. Even when a woman uses her voice and has power, she is brought down by the media and reduced to her looks.

To have a Disney song tackle this issue and use it as a “scare tactic” essentially from Ursula to Ariel gives the song a great, complex layer. She’s basically saying, “You’re worried you won’t have your voice? Don’t worry, I’m actually doing you a favor by taking it. He won’t want it.” Poor Unfortunate Souls is a twisty-turny, manipulative song and is a fantastic start to the inception of Villain Songs!

my body is ready

Gaston

What could be more vain and villainous than to name a song about yourself?

hercules like a boss

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, this song also sheds some light onto Gaston for us. We learn he’s always been obsessed with his looks (“when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs”), he’s always had gross macho tastes (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”), and he loves to spit (“I’m especially good at expectorating!”).

But really, this song shows us how Gaston feels entitled to Belle, how he sees her as property he should be able to own because he wants her and it doesn’t matter how she feels.

Who does she think she is?
That girl has tangled with the wrong man.
No one says ‘no’ to Gaston
Dismissed! Rejected!
Publicly humiliated! Why, it’s more than I can bear

First, you tangled with her, dude. Belle did not want to tangle with you and made that very clear. Second, man has some deep entitlement issues. Third, his pride was wounded when Belle rejected him in front of everyone, so that’s really what he’s most angry about. He never cared about Belle. He cared about the image she was: the pretty girl in town. She was an enigma to everyone. No one quite knew what to make of her. By claiming her, Gaston would have won the prize, essentially.

This song is representative of larger issues that plague us today, like when young athletes do not get properly punished for raping girls. The media laments their promising career, caring nothing about the victim. This song is the entire town coming together to make Gaston feel better, to tell him how much they all adore him and how perfect he is. Gaston hasn’t done anything wrong in this song.

Gaston did not rape Belle, but the scene where he proposes in her home certainly has elements of rape culture in them. He goes to her home. He pushes himself through the doorway when everything about Belle is radiating “I do not want you here.” And Belle has that right. She can not want to be around someone. She can not want them inside her home. A woman does not have to verbally say “no”— her body language can convey that, the tone of her voice, even. And Belle conveys that she is in a situation she does not want to be in.

beauty and the beast do not want

A sampling of the things he says in that scene: “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes.” And: “This is the day your dreams come true.”

Basically: “I am God’s gift to women, worship me.”

He’s literally forcing himself on her even as she’s trying to say no. She is pressed against the door and ducking away from him as he tries to kiss her. That is forcing himself on her. This scene directly leads to the angst ridden Gaston we meet during his Villain Song moment. He feels unjustly rejected.

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, the song gives some insight into our villains and also looks at what men expect from women. In Ursula’s case, the woman was supposed to be pretty and quiet and not cause trouble. For Gaston, women should be mindless and worship him. They cannot say no.

Prince Ali (reprise)

Jafar’s villain song in Aladdin doesn’t come until the end of story when he thinks he’s won. It’s very different from the other two because it is a victory song. It has its roots in Hook singing about threatening children since here, Jafar is carrying out his master plan in song. Man, what a great evil laugh.

Jafar blows Aladdin’s masquerade and banishes him. He’s got control of the genie; Jasmine and the sultan are powerless. This song vastly differs in tone from the other two. Ursula is trying to get her plan in motion and succeeds by the end of the song. Gaston is in a “Woe Is Me” mood and in the man-dumps. Not Jafar. No way, this guy is winning. And he’s insulting people:

His personality flaws,
give me adequate cause
to send him packing on a one-way trip

aladdin and jafar slap

If personality flaws are all we need, I think there’s a lovely trip waiting for Jafar, too.

Jafar’s villain song is really short, but it changes the game for all villain songs that follow.

Be Prepared

Scar is plotting in The Lion King. He’s got big plans to murder his brother and take over as king. This song combines all the elements we’ve seen in the previous ones: bit of backstory, thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and insults galore.

bitch i'm fabulous

We all joke about Scar and “what was Scar’s name before he got the scar?” But the truth is, we don’t know much about Mufasa and Scar. We know they’re brothers and Mufasa was older so he became king. We know Scar resents this. We can infer that maybe Scar didn’t get enough love as a cub. One of the final lines in the song is “Be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am.” From this, I’m guessing our speculation is true. Scar was always seen as second to Mufasa, a fast he’s always resented.

oh, goody

Like Ursula, Scar is still figuring out how to put his plans into motion. His previous attempts at assassinating his brother have failed. Like Gaston, he puts himself above everyone, including the hyenas that are trying to help him take power. And like Jafar, he’s got plenty of insults to go around. And by the end of the song, he’s reveling in his sure to come victory.

This particular villain’s song treads the darker side of an I Want song. Scar wants power, in fact, he deserves power (“justice deliciously squared”). While Ursula wants Ariel’s voice, and Gaston wants Belle, and Jafar doesn’t want anything because he’s already winning, those songs all have a bit of other meanings buried beneath them. Whereas, Be Prepared, is really Scar’s I Want song, and This is How I’m Gonna Get it And It’s Gonna Be Amazing song.

lion kingbe prepared evil laugh copy 2

Mine, Mine, Mine

Ratcliffe’s song in Pocahontas is really interesting. I think Pocahontas is one of Disney’s most underrated films and I have no idea why because it is AMAZING. There are a lot of layers to it.

The gold of Cortes
The jewels of Pizarro
Will seem like mere trinkets
By this time tomorrow
The gold we find here
Will dwarf them by far
Oh, with all ya got in ya, boys
Dig up Virginia, boys

This is essentially the conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Ratcliffe and his men expect to become rich, richer than Cortes and his successful expeditions (ie: rape and genocide and disease). The stories of wealth from the New World are what they’re chasing. Ratcliffe doesn’t care about preserving the land or the homes of the people that already live there. From the first verse of this song, we know that Ratcliffe expects nothing less than vast riches. This villain song sets up the rest of the film. If Ratcliffe doesn’t find the gold, then he’s going to assume the Natives have hoarded it all for themselves and thus we have conflict.

tumblr_nblomoULYP1tyyi56o8_250

“Dig up Virginia, boys” is such a chilling line to me. It shows zero compassion. It reduces the Powhatan tribe to nothing, basically. They do not matter. And land is nothing more than a commodity.

Next, in a familiar trend, Ratcliffe’s song gives us a peek into his backstory, too.

My rivals back home
It’s not that I’m bitter
But think how they’ll squirm
When they see how I glitter!
The ladies at court
Will be all a-twitter

Ratcliffe wants fame and fortune, but he also wants to be better than his rivals. We don’t know much more than this, but it shows us he’s trying to prove himself. He’s competitive. He wants a story to beat Cortes’. He probably wants other people to eventually sing about finding more gold than him—but of course that’ll never happen because Virginia is the richest of them all.

Make the mounds big, boys
I’d help you to dig, boys
But I’ve got this crick in me spine

This provides another look into Ratcliffe. He expects the gold will earn him favor with the king (“My dear friend King Jimmy will probably build me a shrine” and “The king will reward me, he’ll knight me, no lord me”), but he also already treats himself as a king. He orders his sailors around, he has them do all the digging. They do the work and he gets the reward.

Keep on working, lads
Don’t be shirking, lads
Mine, boys, mind
Mine ME that gold
Beautiful gold

I love that part, where all the pretense is gone. The “I have a bad back” is transparent enough, but for a moment Ratcliffe is totally consumed by his want/greed that he can’t even remember to try and mask his villainy.

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But in a very different move, this song also features John Smith, the central male character of the film and also the love interest. He partly shares Ratcliffe’s views in that he sees the land as something he can take and “claim,” in his own words. He’s misguided like Ratcliffe, but he’s not there for the gold. He’s there for “adventure,” and to find “danger.” John Smith’s character arc entwines itself with Ratcliffe and then they run parallel to each other, both Englishmen going on separate journeys. They both traveled to Virginia because of land and they both share this song. Smith distances himself from the other settlers both visually (to the audience) and emotionally (he can’t see what Ratcliffe is doing, the destruction is not real to him) by not being part of the digging party. He’s already gone off to explore the new land.

It was an interesting and bold move to craft the song this way. This is the first villain song to include a non-villain character in it. Pocahontas is one of those films that has so many deeper meanings and Ratcliffe and Smith are both complex characters that prove this.

Conclusion

Next week I’ll tackle the deleted song from The Emperor’s New Grooze, Snuff out the Light. We’ll also wrap up with the final Villain Songs: Hellfire, Friends on the Other Side, and Mother Knows Best. I’ll also discuss the films Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Frozen by exploring why these films lack Villain Songs.

Happy 2015! Sending wicked vibes your way for a good one.
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What do you think of the Disney Villain Songs? Do you have a favorite?

Cheers!
-M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 2

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Welcome back to part 2 of my Disney Princess I Want Songs meta! (Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.) Today, we’re tackling the rest of the Renaissance era princesses (Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan), and then we’re onto the Post-Renaissance (Tiana, Rapunzel and Anna). So let’s get started!

Jasmine: Jasmine’s Song…Uh…About That…

aladdin jasmine
Okay, so Jasmine is a weird case, because she doesn’t quite have an “I Want” song. In the Broadway musical, she has this gorgeous song called “These Palace Walls” that sums up her wants so well, but this is Animated Meta and we’re talking about the animated movies, so that’s off limits.

So sadly, Jasmine has no I Want Song. But she does have an I Got What I Wanted song. Confused? Let me explain.

Despite not having an I Want Song, there is a nice little scene between Jasmine and the Sultan where she tells us exactly what she wants out of life. The Sulan wants her to marry, and reminds her that there’s three days until her next birthday, by which time she needs to announce a suitor. Jasmine’s not thrilled with that.

“I hate being forced into this,” she says firmly, and then: “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”

aladdin i want it to be for love

The Sultan’s also worried about her being alone. He wants her to be “taken care of,” but Jasmine points out that she’s never had a chance to take care of herself, and it’s clear that she resents the fact that she’s been so sheltered all these years. (“I’ve never had any real friends…I’ve never even been outside the palace walls!”)

Here, we have Jasmine’s core want laid out: she wants more independence. Because her father has tried to protect her, Jasmine has never really been given the chance to decide anything for herself. She’s never been able to go out beyond the palaces walls and see the kingdom. She hasn’t made any real friends (well, any human friends; she has Raja). And she doesn’t want to marry just because some law tells her to. Like many of us, she wants to find someone she loves and settle down with them. And she wants to do that on her own time, not on some insane three day time limit. So obviously, she’s not super happy with her dad.

aladdin done w your shit

And that’s where “A Whole New World” comes in.

aladdin a whole new world

Unlike most of the princesses, Jasmine’s song is an I Got What I Wanted song. By this time, she’s achieved many of her core wants. She snuck out of the palace and got to see outside the palace walls. She met a cute guy (Aladdin) who she connected with in a way that she hasn’t with the suitors her father threw her way. And of course, in “A Whole New World,” we have Aladdin offering her something else she wants: a chance to see the world.

“I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid,” he promises her: “No one to tell us no or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”

aladdin flower

Which is exactly what Jasmine wants: Aladdin gives her the independence she craves, because he understands her desires? She wants to see the world? Well, he’ll hop in his carpet and show her. And Jasmine appreciates that:

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings,
Soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling, through an endless diamond sky
A whole new world, a hundred thousand things to see,
I’m like a shooting star; I’ve come so far
I can’t go back to where I used to be

Aladdin opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Jasmine. He opens up opportunities and choices that she never thought possible, and in the end, he’s what inspires her to reach for what she wants. And in turn, she helps him achieve what he wants as well. Now that’s what I call an equal partnership.

Pocahontas: Just Around the Riverbend

pocahontas riverbend rainbow

I already talked a lot about “Just Around the Riverbend” in my Pocahontas and Spirituality post a few weeks back, so some of this might seem repetitive. But here we go anyway:

Pocahontas’ want is actually kind of vague, to be honest. What she wants is “something more.” She actually isn’t sure what specifically she wants, but she knows that the path her father has put her on isn’t what she wants, and that she could aspire to so much more:

Can I ignore that sound of distant drumming
For a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome, sturdy walls
And never dreams that something might be coming
Just around the river bend?

“Just Around the Riverbend” is all about internal conflict. Pocahontas is deciding whether she’d rather choose the smoothest course or find out what’s waiting for her just around the river bend. Like Grandmother Willow tells her, the right path is not always the easiest one, so it makes sense that Pocahontas would antagonize over whether it’s better to follow the path she knows or take a risk and travel down one less known.

pocahontas kocoum riverbend
But Pocahontas has always been an adventurer, and she’s never been one to ignore her heart, so when she picks the rougher path at the end of the song, we know she’s on the right track. And sure enough, choosing to follow her heart and find what’s around the river bend leads Pocahontas to John Smith. Although their tale ends bittersweet, Pocahontas doesn’t regret the path she chose, because in listening to her heart and taking the path less traveled, she brings together her tribe and the settlers, and finally comes into herself as the future leader she is destined to be.

pocahontas choosing another course

Mulan: Reflection

mulan

Ah, Fa Mulan. I love Mulan so much, guys. I could ramble about her forever. But I’ll just stick to this gorgeous I Want song of hers. Unlike many of our princesses, Mulan isn’t seeking adventure or romance: she’s seeking acceptance from the people she loves. “Reflection” is all about identity and acceptance. Mulan wants her family to accept her for who she is inside, and wars with the fact that who she is goes at odds with what society (and her family) expect from her:

Now I see that if I were truly to be myself,
I would break my family’s heart

Mulan is not ladylike or elegant, and that’s what messes with her chances with the Matchmaker.

It also makes her feel inadequate, because the role society puts on her demands that she be one way, while she is another. She tries to hide it, but can’t, and it tears her apart:

Somehow, I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

mulan reflection

The animation sequence that goes with “Reflection” is so brilliant, because we see Mulan dismantling parts of her appearance (removing the make-up, taking her hair out of its bun). She’s at war with who she is, and she’s uncomfortable with whom she is as well. You can see it in the way that she stares at her reflection, and how she tugs at her hair nervously when she sits by the tree at the end of the song.

mulan reflection end

In the end, Mulan does get to show who she is inside. Her inner warrior comes out when she takes her father’s place, and she shows her family – as well as all of China – just who she is inside. And best of all, she gets the acceptance she wanted all along. Pretty happy ending, in my opinion. (Plus, she gets Shang, who’s pretty awesome as well.)

Okay, onto the post-Renaissance!

Post-Renaissance Princesses
For the purpose of this post, the Post-Renaissance princesses are the one who came after the glorious Disney Renaissance. So here, three princesses apply: Tiana, Rapunzel, and Anna. (Remember: no Elsa, because she’s a queen. ;))

So let’s get this Post-Renaissance party started by talking about Tiana and her want.

Tiana: Almost There

princess and the frog almost there

Similar to Jasmine, Tiana’s “I Want” song is a strange case, because while it is what she wants, she’s also very close to achieving it, so it’s almost an “I’ve Almost Achieved my Want” song. (Which I guess is why it’s called “Almost There.”)

One of the things I love about Tiana is that like Cinderella, Tiana has a strong work ethic. She believes in her dreams, but knows that she can only make them come true if she works at them. Tiana isn’t royalty: she doesn’t have the world on a platter the way some of our princesses do. But she’s determined to work hard and be ambitious and reach for what she wants: that restaurant in New Orleans. Out of anyone, Tiana’s dreams are the most clear-cut, and thus, in order to make them harder to achieve, the movie throws her life off course. The men she wanted the shop from refuse to let her get it. She gets turned into a frog for the majority of the movie. And by the end, she’s almost lost hope of every becoming normal again.

But Tiana gets there. She gets the shop, she winds up with the romance that will make her mother happy (I want some grandkids!), and as we catch a glimpse of her in her shop at the end, we know she’s finally there. Mission accomplished, all through hard work and dedication.

Rapunzel: When Will My Life Begin?

tangled rapunzel
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I love this song so much. As much as I will forever be sad that Disney seems to be straying away from 2D animation with their Princess movies, Tangled is really a glorious movie. And Rapunzel’s I Want Song, “When Will My Life Begin?” is sweet and wonderful.

Rapunzel’s want is easy to decipher: like so many Disney princesses before her, Rapunzel wants to know when her life will begin: aka, when will she finally get out of this tower and get to see something new? Now, unlike many of our lonely bored princesses, Rapunzel’s actually invented some great ways to distract herself. She knits, she bakes, she makes pottery, she paints…the girl has many hobbies, and I think she’s actually got the most hobbies of any princess ever. But alas, hobbies cannot stop a girl from wondering what’s outside when you’re stuck living in a tower with only a verbally abusive mother to keep you company, so Rapunzel wonders about what’s out there. Unlike most of the princesses, who have less specific wants, Rapunzel’s got one thing in particular she wants to see:

And tomorrow night, the lights will appear
Just like they do, on my birthday every year
What is it like out there where they glow?

Rapunzel wants to see the lights and find out what all the fuss is about. And guess what? She does, thanks to Flynn. Interestingly enough, once Rapunzel sees the lights, she has a second Want appear: Flynn. One of the things I found really cool about Tangled was that the characters have multiple Wants. Wants change as they’re achieved, or as the characters grow and realize what they wanted are different than they first thought. And I think that’s very true to life, isn’t it? As we achieve goals, we want new things. Lucky for Rapunzel, she gets both wants achieved, and better yet, she finds the family she never knew was out there, waiting for her. Wants fulfilled, bonus achieved. Happily ever after.

tangled hug

Anna: For the First Time in Forever

frozen blank anna copy

Okay, so I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Frozen. But Anna’s I Want song is clearly defined in a great way, and Anna is my spirit animal, so I’m happy to talk about her.

Now, Anna’s an interesting case, because she technically has two I Want songs: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is set up as her past Want: it’s all about her desire to reconnect with Elsa. Anna doesn’t understand why her big sister has abandoned her, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is spent with Anna outside Elsa’s door at varying times of her life, trying to get her sister to come play with her. Obviously, we the viewer understand why Elsa doesn’t want to hang out with Anna, but Anna doesn’t. Her pleas to Elsa go from peppy to semi-hopeful to that final resigned lines of the song, where it’s clear she’s on her last limb with Elsa:

We only have each other,

It’s just you and me

What are we going to do?

Do you want to build a snowman?

frozen do you wanna build a snowman gif

When that fails, and Elsa still doesn’t open the door, Anna’s priorities change. Understandably, after years and years of trying to connect with her, Anna is done trying. And so, her wants change. That’s where “For the First Time in Forever” comes in.

frozen for the first time in forever gif

In “For the First Time in Forever”, Anna’s wants are set up easily. She’s pretty blunt about her wants (a nice change from some off the vaguer I Want songs), and what she wants is this:

For the first time in forever, there’ll be magic, there’ll be fun
For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy to dream I’d find romance
But for the first time in forever, at least I’ve got a chance

Does she get all of these things? Yes, but not exactly the way she expected.

When Hans appears at the end of “For the First Time in Forever,” we fully expect him to fulfill Anna’s expectations. After all, they have their Meet Cute moment (when she stumbles into the boat and he saves her from going overboard), and she gets flustered, and he’s smiling, and cuteness ensues. Then he reappears at the ball, they share their cute little duet (“Love is an Open Door”, which becomes a lot less cute when you realize that Hans is really a scheming schemer), and he proposes. They share a magical night, he notices her, they have fun together…everything Anna wanted fulfilled in a flash, right?

frozen gorgeous wait what

Not quite. See, Hans ends up being evil, which means that Anna got out of meeting him is kind of a lie. He uses her feelings for him and her desire to be noticed against her to manipulate her, so that he can rule Arendelle. Not exactly the romance a girl desires.

However, there is one bright side to all of this: Anna does get what she wanted, from the other people in her life. She gets some magic (in the form of Elsa’s cool ice magic). She gets noticed by two very important people: her sister, who she’s wanted to rekindle a bond with forever (ties back to the song title nicely, huh?) and Kristoff, who winds up giving her the romance she wanted. She also has some fun on her journey. Granted, there are snow monsters and accidental ice shards in her heart and feels, but some of it is fun. (Especially the parts that involve Olaf.)

So in the end, Anna gets what she wanted. She gets the magic, she gets noticed, she gets the romance, and she has some fun. The ending of the movie is a great example of this, when we see her, Elsa and everyone else in the town ice-skating. Finally, Anna’s gotten a chance to live the life she always wanted, and better yet, the people who truly love and care about her are by her side.
I’d say that’s a happy-ever-after for her.

Notes: I had a lot of fun writing this post! Mic and I are actually considering tackling some of the other types of Disney songs at a later point. What do you guys think? Would you like to hear more about the music? Let us know in the comments!

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Have a great Tuesday!
Cheers,
-M&M

People of Color in Animation

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Today we’re going to talk about people of color (POC) in animation. POC, for our purposes, refers to anyone who is not white.

Here is a compilation of POC characters in animation:

  • Pocahontas [Native American] [Disney]
  • Esmeralda [race not identified] [Disney]
  • Tiana [African American—but not officially identified] [Disney]
  • Little Creek [Native American] [Dreamworks]
  • Chel [a native of Central or South America] [Dreamworks]
  • Lucius/Frozone [presumably African American] [Pixar/Disney]
  • Lilo [Hawaiian] [Disney]
  • Aladdin [Arab] [Disney]
  • Mulan [Asian] [Disney]
  • Kuzco [Incan Empire/Native South American—modern day Peru] [Disney]
  • Tiger Lily [Native American] [Disney]
  • Mowgli [Indian] [Disney]
  • The Prince of Egypt [Dreamworks]

(Note: I’ve included Native Americans and Hispanics in the list because Native Americans are currently a miniscule population due to atrocities committed during the forming of this nation and Hispanics currently face great hardships like immigration laws. I’m also including Lilo because “Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” has its own box on job applications/standardized tests/etc. Also, if I didn’t, there’d be, like, no one on this list.)

(Other note: I’ve not seen Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt, so I don’t feel confident talking about it.)

This discussion has been building for a very long time. Disney has faced criticism for their all white casts and the usual defense has been, well, these stories take place in Europe back in the day, so everyone was white.

Yeah, no.

I’m here to burst your bubble because: you can see people of color represented in Medieval European art and considering the Iberian peninsula was conquered by Muslims in the 700s, I’d say Europeans were no stranger to people of color. Marco Polo traveled to Asia in the 1200s. And if you still doubt, my Tudor era professor confirmed that England, namely London, was already a mixed metropolis in the 1500 and 1600s.

To curb this backlash, Disney released The Princess and the Frog. I enjoy this film and the return to 2D, and I love the humor. However, this offering was meant to halt the criticism, but it only spurned more. Our first black princess and she’s a FROG for 70% of the film?

reaction do you feel the judgement

I don’t know if any other animation house has faced as much backlash as Disney. Presumably they are the target because they are the most successful and influential. However, it appears Disney may have the best track record compared to some of the other houses—though there is room for drastic improvement. Tallied from the above list, Disney has 10 characters of color. That’s a minuscule number compared to their collection of 50+ films, but when Disney does utilize diversity, they do so richly and create compelling stories (mostly, we’ll see exceptions below).

In addition to mounting movement in the animation world, this meta was also brought on by the senseless shootings of unarmed black adults and children at the hands of police officers.

From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country. [x]

I am saddened and angered by what’s been happening around us. This meta was always coming, so lets get to it.


The most shocking thing I noted was every story featuring a person a color is extremely dated.

  • Pocahontas = Age of Exploration (specifically 1607)
  • Esmeralda = Hugo’s novel was published in the 1800s, though the book is set in the 1400s
  • Tiana = 1912
  • Aladdin = unspecified, but based on the very old One Thousand and One Nights (though the genie loves his pop culture references)
  • Mulan = I really don’t know because the Huns were burning shit since the dawn of time, but Mulan first appeared in poems between the 300s and 600s
  • Kuzco = 16th century
  • Little Creek = Around the time railroads were being built, so 1800s
  • Chel = Age of Exploration (Spanish conquistadors—1519)
  • Lucius/Frozone = CONTEMPORARY (FINALLY)
  • Lilo = CONTEMPORARY (YAY!)
  • Mowgli = date unknown
  • Tiger Lily = exists in a world where time does not pass, but The Darlings’ interaction with Pan happens in the 1900s

The majority of stories being told here are set in very vivid time periods, as if the only story worth telling of people of color are their trials and tribulations in history, which are clearly over now because we live in a post-racial, globalized world. We know this is untrue. There may not be Jim Crow laws or homelands being overrun by industrialization, but there is still plenty of injustice.

Many Disney films give off old timey feels, but none are really held back by their time period. Beauty and the Beast has no identifying marker of what year it is, nor does the very recent Frozen, or Lady and Tramp, or Cinderella (in my opinion). But when you throw in the Age of Exploration, that dates your film. That sets the story firmly in one universe.

Next, lets look at who the protagonists of these films are:

  • Pocahontas, check
  • Tiana, check
  • Lilo, check
  • Mulan, check
  • Aladdin, check
  • Kuzco, check
  • Mowgli, grey area, but check
  • Tiger Lily, no
  • Esmeralda, no
  • Little Creek, no
  • Chel, no
  • Lucius/Frozone, no

Pocahontas owns her story and while Tiana is a frog for most of it, she does not cease being black (literally, she’s green, fine, but her character does not change). Kuzco is the male Tiana (or a prototype of Naveen, since those two are more similar) where he’s stuck as a llama for the majority of the movie.

emperor's new groove llama face copy

Lilo and her sister Nani are too wonderful for words (best sisters ever–sorry Anna and Elsa) and make me sob, sob, sob.

lilo and stitch sad copy

Aladdin is populated with other people of the same race. And Mulan just needs no introduction.

mulan tea

The fact is, only seven cases can be made for an animated movie led by a person of color. Maybe even four if you don’t want to include The Princess and the Frog, Emperor’s New Groove, or The Jungle Book.

Esmeralda plays an integral role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for sure, but it’s not her story. Ultimately it is about Quasi learning how to love himself and be confident. Little Creek, likewise, is super important in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it’s not his story, either. The film is about Spirit making his way home and becoming a leader. If you catch my drift here, Chel’s role in The Road to El Dorado is one of a love interest and ally to the two main characters. Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful friend and sidekick, but he’s absent for the entire middle portion of The Incredibles.

They are players, but not major players.

Pocahontas, Lilo, Tiana, Aladdin, Kuzco and Mulan: Taking Names and Kicking Butt

pocahontas indignant lookliloprincess and the frog tianaaladdin copyemperor's new groove dancingmulan

 

Disney gave us six POC leads. Each of them are strong, flawed heroes. We have a very diverse list of races/cultures/ethnicities here: Native American, African American, Hawaiian, and Arabic. In addition, we also have supporting characters to reflect this, too.

It’s clear when Disney sets a story within a particular framework, they usually go all the way to actualize the worlds.

In Pocahontas we see the Powhatan tribe farming the land and praying to spirits for guidance. Healing practices, transportation, customs and homes are all shown to us. Their way of life contrasts with the settlers so starkly. Pocahontas teaches John Smith many things, most importantly that land is not something to own. But she also teaches him about her culture, such as how their tribe says hello and goodbye.

Lilo and Stitch takes us to Hawaii, where we have Lilo, Nani, and David and wonderful world building. The perception is that contemporary stories are easier since there is no fantasy world or past to explain, but that’s not true. Contemporary stories require just as much work to get right and Disney was not afraid of the challenge.

lilo and stitch 2

In addition to our sisters and a couple aliens, we have the social worker, Cobra Bubbles. He is darker skinned than the others and clearly holds a higher position of power (I point this out because of the power structure in Frog). Surfing and hula are all integral to creating Lilo, Nani, and David’s pastimes. David and Nani work at a resort and tourism has the biggest influence on the GDP of Hawaii. I’m sure this movie taught everyone the meaning of Ohana and several other Hawaiian words. Nani also sings a song in Hawaiian when she’s forced to say goodbye to Lilo.

lilo and stich hands

The flowers they send into the wind are also the same flowers shown on leis throughout the film.

Next we move onto The Princess and the Frog, which may have the weakest world building of them all. This is not a surprise if Tiana’s skin was colored just to appease outcries. Mardi Gras really grounds the city as New Orleans and jazz and gumbo tie us back to the African American culture. But that’s really all that can be said, sadly.

princess and the frog exhausted

As for supporting characters, Dr. Facilier is clearly not white and Mama Odie, Tiana’s mom (and dearly departed dad), and Prince Naveen are all dark skinned.

princess and the frog reaction  basic bitch

This is offset by the white characters like Charlotte, her father, and Naveen’s evil minion, Lawrence. We are presented with a diverse New Orleans, brimming with French influence and lively jazz. Frog presents us with the uncomfortable image of an all white power structure: Charlotte’s dad being rich, the two men Tiana wants to buy the restaurant from being white, and Tiana’s mother working as a seamstress. As mentioned above, this is not the case in Lilo and Stitch, a film made before Frog. However, Frog is set about hundred years before Lilo, so that could be one argument in favor of the movie.

Then, we have Aladdin. We open on a desert, which right away sets the story. The marketplace, the sand, the palace, they all present a clear picture. The strength in Aladdin’s world building really comes from visuals: clothes, places, animals. There’s nothing that the characters do that really identify them, besides, to say it again, their clothes. The custom of a princess needing to marry does not differentiate it from other princess films. The art of the movie is really what saves it.

Mulan trumps all in terms of world building.

mulan reflection

The fact that Mulan is Chinese is very important to her story. Mulan, like Pocahontas, is a historical figure so it is not shocking her race matters to the story. Chinese culture is presented to us everywhere: praying to the ancestors, the matchmaker, the clothes, the writing. Gender roles, especially, and honor thy father all influence Mulan’s arc and the story Disney is telling. Mulan and Gender Roles is its own meta, but Disney consciously created a Chinese character and set her in her world, effectively showing us a new culture and race.

Finally, there’s Kuzco. While Aladdin sets us up visually and The Princess and the Frog is relatively weak, but still a decent effort, Kuzco isn’t anything special. Yes, he’s a native South American, but the only cultural addition to the film are llamas. Of course, there’s jungles and nature and the contrast between poorer homes on the hilltops vs Kuzco’s palace. Besides the llamas, though, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t matter. Props to Disney for reimagining Mr. Andersen’s Danish fairy tale in this way, but the world isn’t strong enough.

I haven’t spoken much on The Jungle Book. Mowgli is Indian, but besides his name and the names of all the animals around him, that’s not very obvious. He certainly does not have an Indian accent, nor does he even possess any understanding of the concept of “Indian.” The girl in the village wearing the tilak (or bindi) at the end of the film is the only real connection we have to this culture.

Esmeralda, Little Creek, Chel, Lucius: Lets Be Honest, Taking Names and Kicking Butt, Too

hunchback seeing him spirit little creekel dorado chel idiots face incredibles frozone

Esmeralda is the leading female of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She is one of my all-time favorite characters. She’s idealistic, loyal, brave, kind. As a gypsy, she’s hunted by Frollo and made to feel unworthy.

I don’t know if you would listen to a gypsy’s prayer… Yes, I know I’m just an outcast, I shouldn’t speak to you…
–God Help the Outcasts

She represents discrimination and persecution. She’s hunted for being a gypsy, for being a woman, and for being a person of color. But she’s prepared to become a martyr, to die for what she believes in.

She’s Quasi’s first example of a decent human being and becomes his first human friend (gargoyles, anyone?). She helps bring him out of his shell and quell his fears about being feared. She would know, too, since she’s used to mothers frequently telling their children not to go near her (see: the beginning of the film).

Esmeralda is another example of a Disney woman saving her man, but her and Phoebus may also be the first interracial couple (and they make me swoon)!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a very brave film. It doesn’t shy away from personal issues like religion and hate and sexual undertones. But it also tackles race and bias and unfair persecution. Esmeralda is an amazing character, she’s strong in the best sense of the word and brings amazing representation to the Disney animated universe.

I’ve been talking about Disney a lot, so lets turn to Dreamworks.

Little Creek is my baby. He’s a Lakota Native American and we first meet him when Spirit is captured by US soldiers. Little Creek was caught trying to free the cavalry’s horses and as the film shows us, Little Creek and his tribe care very much about horses. They don’t want to see them saddled, branded, or whipped. When he and Spirit escape, Spirit is brought back to Little Creek’s tribe and nourished back to health after The Colonel tried to starve him that way he would become milder and easier to tame (spoiler alert: not happening).

Little Creek becomes the most important human Spirit meets. He is the embodiment of kindness and they become good friends. He is the opposite of the regiment’s men, the ones who want to destroy the land and nature and build roads and railways. He wants to train Spirit, but he also is in awe of his power and respects him.

spirit 5

who wouldn’t be in awe of Spirit? look at that pretty horsie

Little Creek’s version of training is of course very different from the soldiers, but when Spirit still resists, he lets go. He does not try to wield power over Spirit. And when Spirit sees that, that is when he lets Little Creek ride him.

spirit 3spirit who could not be broken

In the Road to El Dorado, we meet Chel. She is not a Disney princess, but like most of them she has dreams of going on adventure and discovering something new. In fact, the first time we see her she’s running away from home with some gold she stole.

el dorado chel copy

She’s native to El Dorado, the city of gold, somewhere in Central or South America. Where The Emperor’s New Groove failed, El Dorado excels. El Dorado is a fully real, actualized city. There is an opposing ruling force and tension within the community (the chief vs the high priest), distinct artwork and games that are played. Visually, also, the movie stuns, creating a rich world to contrast with Spain.

Chel’s role is fairly straightforward. If this was Disney, she’d have an “I Want” song and a love song with Tulio. She doesn’t have either of those here, though they are important aspects of her character. As the story goes on, we see her helping Miguel and Tulio pass off their con about being gods. She is vital to their success, filling them in on customs and traditions and getting them out of sticky situations.

el dorado chel idiots face

Chel’s face every time the idiot boys don’t listen to her

And when the chance to leave El Dorado and travel with them to Spain is presented, of course she’s ready to go for it.

el dorado end

Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful bestie in The Incredibles. His scene at the end of the film–

incredibles wheres my super suit

–is one of everyone’s favorites. His wife is never seen, but even she’s legendary (I am the greatest good you are ever gonna get). There’s nothing about him to emphasize his race, but it doesn’t matter because that’s how life is. Your friends are your friends. We know all kinds of different people.

Also, the list of black superheroes is slim. Frozone does have a small role, but he is a splash of diversity in an otherwise all white film.


Do I think this is suitable? Of course not. More can and should be done to bring diverse characters into the mainstream animation houses. As we’ve seen with Mulan and Aladdin and Lilo and Stitch, amazing movies happen!

But, I wanted to highlight the fact that Disney, who largely faces the most criticism for their all white stories, have brought us people of color in their films. They’ve given us the biggest majority of POCs as protagonists, too.

I left out the film Brother Bear by Disney because there’s not much to add–it follows the standard interpretation of Native Americans we’ve seen in Pocahontas and Spirit, plus POC being an animal for most of the film.

brother bear new in town copy

I also left out Ice Age by 20th Century because 1, I forgot about the nomadic tribe, and 2, because they are a tiny facet of the film. But by the nature of the film, it dates itself back millions of years, which ties into a point made above. Also not mentioned are The Croods, which follows the same logic for Ice Age. The Book of Life, I have yet to see, but it seems Hispanic culture plays a bigger role there than Emperor. Big Hero 6 features an Asian protagonist, but I’ve not yet seen it yet, either.

People of color have stories to tell! Historical OR contemporary, their lives matter. Their lives in reality and their lives in art and animation.

If you take anything away from this post I hope it is either:

  • Disney has given us the most diversity of any animation house
  • But: we should still be critical of Disney and encourage more diversity among all animators
  • The majority of stories about POCs focus on historical aspects, which is great, but there needs to be more of a balance between past and present

Leave your thoughts and opinions below! How do you feel about diversity in animation?

Cheers!
-M&M

Pocahontas and Spirituality

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Since Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday, and the holiday season is upon us, I thought it would be fun to talk about spirituality – or more specifically, spirituality in Pocahontas. I’ve always been a very spiritual person, and the last time I watched Pocahontas, it really struck me how much that aspect is touched upon. So today, we’re going to talk about animism, spirituality and what exactly the colors of the wind really represent.

Animism
So, what is animism, and what does it have to do with Pocahontas? Well, if you Google the word, you’ll get two definitions.

The first definition is: the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.

This one’s the easiest to relate to Pocahontas. So much of Pocahontas’ culture and way of life is defined by animism. She and the rest of the Powhatan Tribe hold the spirits and the land sacred. Instead of trying to conquer and plunder the land, like Radcliffe and his men, the Powhatan Tribe works with the land, only taking what they need and respecting it.

As Pocahontas tells John Smith (and us) in Colors of the Wind:
But I know every rock and tree and creature
has a life, has a spirit, has a name

pocahontas has a lifepocahontas has a spirit

pocahontas has a namepocahontas butterflies

(Doesn’t that lyric sound a lot like the definition above? I certainly think it does.)

The word animism also reminds me of animals, and animals are pretty big in the Disney universe as a whole. We have animal-centric movies, like The Lion King, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp… And just look at all of the Disney princesses/princes with animal companions. Aladdin has Abu, and Jasmine has Rajah. Ariel has a whooping three animal BFFs (Flounder, Scuttle, Sebastian). Sleeping Beauty has an entire set of forest friends. Cinderella has her mice. The list goes on and on.

Pocahontas is no exception: she’s got two animal besties, Flit and Meeko, each with their own distinct personality and quirks. Meeko the raccoon is kind of a brat (but a lovable one) who enjoys stealing people’s food, and doesn’t always play nice with others. Despite all that, he’s adorably curious and ultimately a kind raccoon at heart.

pocahontas meeko's so kind

pocahontas meeko checking on percy

Flit on the other hand is an adorable hummingbird: serious, stubborn, but also friendly and very curious about the world around him.

pocahontas flit

pocahontas flit's reflection

They’re as close of friends to her as Nakoma is, and the movie doesn’t trivialize them because they’re animals.

The animals in Pocahontas all have a life, a spirit, a name, just as Pocahontas tells us. The film also uses them as symbolism at times: for example, Meeko represents the settlers. Much like they pillage and steal from the land without regard for its citizens, Meeko steals food from John Smith and others. Percy, in contrast, represents the Powhatan tribe: he was entirely content with his position until Meeko came in and started stealing his food and harassing him, much like the settlers disrupt Pocahontas’ life.
And of course, just as the settlers and tribe make things right in the end, so do Percy and Meeko.

pocahontas animal besties

The world of Pocahontas is very bright and vibrant, full of life and spirit. One of the best examples of this is in Grandmother Willow. We’ll talk more about her later, but for now, I’ll just say that she’s one of the best examples of animism to offer. We don’t see any other talking trees, but I like to assume that’s because we follow Pocahontas’ view for most of the movie, so obviously we’d spend the most time with HER tree grandmother rather than the relatives of others. There are also more general spirits to consider, like rocks, the sky, the Earth itself…which ties into the natural phenomena aspect of the world. The Powhatan tribe prays to and respects the spirits deeply.

Definition two, according to Google, is “the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.”

Most of the songs in Pocahontas, at least the ones surrounding Pocahontas and her tribe, relate back to the spirits (and animism). They look to the spirits for guidance and for food. Steady as the Beating Drum illustrates this really well:
Plant the squash and reap the bean
All the earth our mother gives

O Great Spirit, hear our song
Help us keep the ancient ways
Keep the sacred fire strong
Walk in balance all our days

The spirits all hold a sacred place in their lives. The Earth is their mother, the Great Spirit that they look not only for food and shelter, but also for guidance. They appeal to her to remind them to “keep the ancient ways” (keep with tradition), and to “walk in balance all our days” (to stay in balance with the land, and never take more than is needed). They also look to her in times of great turmoil, like when they’re forced to deal with new, unexplained phenomena, like gun shots and frightening pale-skinned men that shoot first and ask questions never for the most part.

One of the most interesting scenes in the movie to me was when Kekata, the tribe’s shaman/medicine man, conjures images from the fire, ones that end up later predicting events from the film.

pocahontas smoke men with guns and armor

pocahontas spirit wolves

The wolves surrounding Kocoum represent his death, and Chief Powhatan stopping their path represents the final conflict, when Radcliffe attempts to kill him. I also found it interesting the way the tribe managed to find ways to explain the unexplained phenomena around them. For example, the settlers’ weapons and armor, things the tribe doesn’t understand, are explained in ways that make sense to them. Their armor gives them “bodies that shine like the sun” and their guns are described as “weapons that spout fire and thunder.”

pocahontas smoky armor and gun

There’s also the comparison of the settlers to wolves, and how both consume everything in their path. Considering that wolves have probably caused trouble for the tribe when it comes to hunting, it makes sense now that they would compare them to the settlers, who, just like the wolves, wind up ravaging the lands and consuming resources the tribe needs. They trust Kekata, with his connection to the spirits, and trust the spirits themselves to guide them through the conflict of the movie.

And much like the tribe, who believes in path of the spirits, and the power that organizes and animates the world, Pocahontas shares the same beliefs.

Listening With Your Heart: Pocahontas’ Spiritual Journey
Pocahontas’ journey isn’t just about bringing the two groups together. It’s a big part of it, but that’s a journey that everyone is a part of (well, except Radcliffe, but no one likes Radcliffe anyway). Pocahontas’ own personal journey, her spiritual journey, is about finding her path.

Her “I Want” song is Just Around the Riverbend, and like most Disney Princesses, it boils down to two important aspects: a longing for adventure and choice.

pocahontas he wants me to be steadypocahontas waterfall

Like so many princesses, Pocahontas wants to chart her own course. Her father has charted one for her (a marriage with Kocoum), and while it’s a smooth course, one that would be easy to choose, Pocahontas has always been one to make her own way. The adventurous streak we see in Pocahontas from the beginning wants something more, or at least a chance at something more.

pocahontas riverbend rainbow

But she’s torn:
Should I choose the smoothest curve
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?

pocahontas should i marry kocoumpocahontas kocoum riverbend
Or do you still wait for me,
Dream Giver Just around the riverbend?

pocahontas choosing another course
When Pocahontas reaches the two paths at the end of the song and proceeds down the jagged course, rather than the smoothest course (the one her father implores her to take), it’s clear that she’s made her decision, and of course, soon after that, she meets John Smith for the first time and her story really swings into high gear. Part of Pocahontas’ journey is learning to trust in the spirits, but more importantly, trust her own heart and decide what it is that she needs to do in order to find the happiness she seeks.

In her quest, she has two helpful sources to guide her: a willow tree and the colors of the wind. And I’m going to talk about why exactly both are so important to her, and how they influence her final course by the end of the story.

Grandmother Willow

pocahontas meeting grandma
Can I just talk about how amazing Grandmother Willow is? One of the things I’ve always loved about Disney is the fact that they aren’t afraid to make the powerful spiritual guides – aka the mystics of the universe – women.

Grandmother Willow is a great example of this. Without her mother there to guide her, and with Nakoma being too by the books (and too busy crushing on Kocoum) to be neutral, Pocahontas’ female guiding force in matters of the heart is Grandmother Willow. In fact, it’s her going to see Grandmother Willow about her dream that sparks off a lot of our plot, because it’s there that she sees the “strange clouds” (the ship sails) and the settlers come into play.

pocahontas grandmother willow from afar

pocahontas grandmother willow 3

Now, let’s talk about that dream of Pocahontas’. Pocahontas has a recurring dream involving her running through the woods, and in front of her is an arrow. When she looks at it, it starts spinning faster and faster, and then it suddenly stops. Why is this important?

pocahontas spinning compass

Well, first of all, the dream ties directly into Pocahontas’ quest. Whether it’s the spirits reaching out to her with this vision or it’s just her own mind trying to make sense of her path, it’s something that’s deeply important to her. It’s also important to see how the vision plays out, because while there’s a possibility the spinning arrow is a reference to John Smith’s compass, it’s also a reference to John Smith himself, and how he ties into Pocahontas’ journey. The arrow represents Pocahontas’ uncertain path, made even more uncertain by the appearance of John Smith.

Unlike Kocoum, John Smith is someone her father would probably not approve of (and he doesn’t, at first), but he’s also a lot more similar to Pocahontas. They both share the same sense of adventure. John Smith’s little “I Want” segment is actually all about adventure, which shows his own path diverging from Radcliffe’s; while Radcliffe only cares about money and getting gold, John Smith wants adventure in a new land, and more importantly, he wants to know about it. In that way, Pocahontas is good for him as well: she’s exactly the teacher he needs, and just as she influences him, he also has an influence on her. His presence offers her another option: another reason to diverge from the path her father has set her on.

The arrow spinning faster and faster could easily represent events put into motion, like the conflict between the settlers and the tribe, and the arrow stopping could represent so many things, but I like to think it represents Pocahontas finally choosing her course. Savages is the song that sets up the climax of the film, with the settlers and tribe determined to fight. John Smith’s execution is planned, and there’s really no going back for either side at this point… or so we think.

When Pocahontas sets out to save John Smith and unite the tribes, she’s finally taking the initiative to chart her own course for once. Standing up to save John Smith means going up against her father, but Pocahontas does it because it is the right path, and because she loves him. She loves both of them, and wants the conflict to end.

pocahontas this is the path I choose

And while all of this is going on, Grandmother Willow is Pocahontas’ guiding light. It’s interesting because while Pocahontas goes to her for advice, Grandmother Willow acts as more of a counselor. She does tell her to listen to the spirits (“All around you are spirits, child. They live in the earth, the water, sky. If you listen, they will guide you.”), but more importantly, Pocahontas must listen to her own heart and find out what she wants. She needs to make the right choice for herself, even if it isn’t the easiest choice or the smoothest course.

pocahontas right path is not easiest

And when all seems lost, Grandmother Willow reminds Pocahontas of her dream. “It’s not too late, child. Let the spirits of the Earth guide you.”

Then comes one of my favorite scenes of the entire movie: the colors of the wind swirling around Pocahontas. The compass stopping, just as we pan to the sunrise, the path to the conflict about to begin, and John Smith’s execution.

pocahontas compass

“You know your path,” Grandmother Willow prompts, “Now follow it.”

And like a badass, Pocahontas does, to the tune of one of the best musical montages of the entire movie. When she needs them, the spirits come through for her and get her to John Smith in time, so that she can stop the conflict. Her course has been decided, and the spirits are 100% behind her on this one.

pocahontas eagle help my feet to fly

The Colors of the Wind
Now before we get to the resolution, there’s something else I need to talk about: the colors of the wind. No, not the song. What I mean when I mention “the colors of the wind” is those pretty leaves that circle around Pocahontas and John Smith. Do you know what I’ve always thought those leaves represent? To me, they represent the other important spiritual presence of the movie: Pocahontas’ mother.

pocahontas pretty leaves
Now, we don’t get much about Pocahontas’ mother during the movie. We know that she’s passed away, because she’s spoken about in the past tense, and we do know that Chief Powhatan loved her deeply, because he speaks very fondly of her. Pocahontas is also compared to her, both by Chief Powhatan and Grandmother Willow.

pocahontas has her mom's spirit

We can tell Pocahontas cares deeply for her too, because of how deeply she cherishes the necklace she wears, the necklace that was once her mother’s, and how she speaks about her. And just like Grandmother Willow, Pocahontas’ mother is with her as well. If we think of the leaves as Pocahontas’ mother, then a lot of the plot makes sense. The leaves are there to guide her whenever she needs them. They appear a lot in The Colors of the Wind (of course), they draw Pocahontas and John Smith together (which, yes, means that Mama Pocahontas ships her daughter and John Smith just like the rest of us), and they’re what guides her toward the cliff so that she can reach John Smith in time.

pocahontas the leaves ship itpocahontas holding hands

They’re also in that horrible heartbreaking ending scene none of us like talking about, where they pass on Pocahontas’ love to John Smith as he sails away.

pocahontas farewell 1pocahontas leaves heading for the ship

pocahontas john smith slow wavepocahontas ending 1

(Nope, why are we talking about this, let’s move on from the heartbreak.)

Anyway, looking at Pocahontas from a spiritual stance, and seeing her mother as the leaves means that Pocahontas’ mother is her other important guiding force. An important facet of spirituality to me is knowing that the ones you love are still watching over you, and I think both Pocahontas (and Chief Powhatan) get that experience through her mother’s spirit watching over them.

pocahontas

pocahontas chief powahtan 2

Conclusion: Pocahontas’s Path Decided
I’m going to wrap this up by talking about the end of Pocahontas’ spiritual quest. After everything – finding her path, bringing the tribes together, all that jazz –, Pocahontas knows what she wants.

Unfortunately, John Smith is going back to England, due to that lovely gunshot wound he got from Radcliffe, and Pocahontas knows she can’t go with him. Her path led to him, but unfortunately, their paths have to diverge, at least as long as it takes for him to get patched up and come back to her (my preferred ending; I like to pretend the sequel doesn’t exist), and she’s okay with that. It’s hard letting go of people, even for a short time, but Pocahontas sacrifices what she has with John Smith, because her people need her more.

pocahontas always be with you

In the end, we get a sort of compromise. Pocahontas takes responsibility for her people and her role in the community, but she’s also on her own course, and no one can choose her path but herself. It’s not the path she imagined for herself, but as they say, you never know what’s waiting just around the riverbend.

pocahontas just around the riverbend

Notes: When we started brainstorming topics for the site, I knew that I really wanted to talk about Pocahontas, because it’s one of my favorite Disney Renaissance films, and once I started thinking about the movie, I realized that it would be wonderful to talk about the spiritual themes of the movie. I also thought it would be good timing, considering the holiday season is beginning. 😉
(Also, if you guys were wondering, the lyrics came from: http://www.stlyrics.com/p/pocahontas.htm)

Comment below with thoughts/feedback/opinions!

Cheers!

-M&M