Tag Archives: Aladdin

Songs for Dad: Animation Style

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Tomorrow is Father’s Day so have a Dad Themed meta! What better way to express your love for Dad than with music? There are two Disney songs and one non-Disney song that are Dad centered. Let’s dive in!

Father and Son

In the third Aladdin movie, Aladdin finally met his long lost father. They have a strained relationship on account of Cassim being absent (and the fact that he’s The King of Thieves—minor detail). In this song, Genie tries to help them make some positive progress in their relationship.

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And boy do they need it…

This song is different than the ones we’re gonna talk about because it’s not the kid and parent singing. Instead it is someone else commenting on a father/son relationship.

It’s a big bright beautiful future

Thank you your lucky stars, you’re alive

You’ve got someone special to talk to

A friend that you can trust for life

I love the optimism here, the notion that any relationship can be fixed or mended. Sometimes families become estranged and there’s bad blood there forever, which is just really sad. But Genie is here to tell you that as long as you’re both alive, there’s always a chance things can get better.

The second line also literally relates to Aladdin and Cassim, since Aladdin did think his dad was dead for basically his whole life. Shame on Disney for killing family so often or keeping them alive and separating them.

Next, “special someone to talk to” is a really sweet line. Usually moms are the parent you’re supposed to turn to with your problems because women are more interested in sharing their feelings, but here, dads are friends and trustworthy and they’ll have your back forever. This is similar with the idea that no one will ever love you as much as your family.

You’ve been on your own with no family ties

But those solo days are done

You’ll be two of a kind

Spending quality time

Together as father and son

Again, this stanza starts with referencing the estrangement and this becomes more pronounced as the song goes on. Aladdin and Cassim have both been separated, alone, and while their reconciliation will make them two of a kind since they’ll be together, they already are. They’re both thieves (or, Aladdin was) and they’ve both been alone. They already have things in common. Once they spend some time together, they’ll be able to see how similar they are and become two peas in a pod, basically.

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Building model ships

Taking fishing trips

Working hand in hand

Painting the palace and moving the sand

First ten to go, with your daddy-o

Once you break the ice

You can postulate paternal advice

Here is a list of typical “Dad Things.” Building things, fishing, the visuals also show them playing football together. But then we’re back to the estrangement (“break the ice”) and that good can come out of it if they just work through it.

It’s a fine fantobulous future

I see fruit on the family tree

You’ll be great as the grumpy old grand-pa

Bouncing babies on your knee

You can fall asleep on the comfy couch

After playing one on one

Dreaming back to back

That you walloped the Shaq

Together as father and son

There’s a bunch going on here. The Shaq reference at the end again ties back to sports and things Aladdin and his dad can do together. But I like this idea of family continuing to expand and that one day, Aladdin and Jasmine will have kids so not only is Cassim gaining his son, he’s also gaining grandkids and a daughter-in-law and father-in-law. Cassim may have missed all of this with his son, but he gets to watch his son do what he couldn’t and be supportive and have a relationship with him now. Plus he gets to meet his adorable grandkids and love them. Estranged family members miss out on those big moments in life when they let things get in the way. The genie does not want that for Aladdin and Cassim.

Maybe a bumpy ride

We’ll make it side by side

Good afternoon, I’ll be your travel guide

Move over, laddie,

Make room for Daddy

Gotta whole new shoulder to cry on

“Bumpy ride” takes us back to the fact that this isn’t gonna happen overnight. There’s probably a lot of anger, resentment, and sadness to work through. All relationships take time. They’re messy. They’re hard and painful. But the benefits, like gaining someone to build model ships with. 😉

We talked about earlier how a father here gets to be someone you can talk to and in this stanza we also see he’s a shoulder you can cry on. That’s really nice, especially to tell boys. Our society conditions boys not to cry, which is really damaging. This song includes all the masculine things like sports and fishing and also says you can talk and you can cry and that’s perfectly normal. Props to you, Disney. You did something good.

Take a chance now give it a spin

You’ve had chums for palin’ around with

But you’ve never had a friend like him

Put your checkered past behind you now

No more living on the run

Face the big bright beautiful future

Together as father and son

We’ve reached the end! So let’s just start with the callback to movie one, Friend Like Me. The song purposefully classifies family and friends differently. We like to say friends are the family you choose for yourself, or friends feel like family, but there’s also the saying blood is thicker than water. And since this is a song about how awesome a relationship with your dad is, of course, they’re going with the latter.

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We end right back where we started, with the future and all the possibilities that lie ahead. The estrangement and isolation doesn’t need to be permanent. They just need to make the choice.

On My Father’s Wings

Our next song selection is from Quest for Camelot. This one is different from above since Kayley sings this just after her father has died. What you need to know is: Kayley adored her father. Her dad = who she wanted to be. So now her hero has literally died/been murdered. This is where Kayley affirms her mission to live up to the man her father was, to be like him, to remember him.

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This song is very straightforward. The visuals are really what matters. Kayley goes back to the beach she used to visit her with dad. She draws the symbol of the knights, the three intertwined rings, and actually has a flashback to when they would play together.

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Quest for Camelot is all about Kayley wanting to be a knight, but being told she can’t because she’s a girl. Her father was the only person that believed she could be a knight and when she loses him, she doesn’t know how to escape society’s expectations, but knows she still wants to.

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And I will fly on my father’s wings

To places I have never been

There is so much I’ve never seen

And I can feel his heart beat still

And I will do great things

On my father’s wings

This world I’ll never see

My dreams that just won’t be

This horse’s stride, with one day’s ride

Will have covered more distance than me

Kayley still feels her father with her, which is a beautiful message about the people we love never leaving us.

Someday, with his spirit to guide me

And his memory beside me

I will be free

To fly on my father’s wings

To places I have never been

Kayley is trapped tending a farm, what she’s supposed to do. So she turns it into an adventure, using the pitchfork as pole vault, a jousting stick, and finally hitting the bulls eye with it. She uses a spoon and bucket cover as a sword and shield.

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Kayley’s inspiration to be a knight stems from her father. If he wasn’t her father, she seriously would not be the person we see on film.

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This tells us that dads matter so much to the development of a child. Even Aladdin was affected by not having a father since earlier in the film he tells Jasmine that he feels like he comes from nowhere, like he just appeared out of thin air. Even in movie one he hated being referred to as a street rat, like he was worthless. He didn’t have a father in his life to take care of him or build up his self-esteem like Kayley did.

Nobody Else But You

Do you remember this Goofy Movie tune? I did not. (Props to Mel for reminding me!)

Before the song starts, Max and Goofy are mid-fight and they are really going at it. Max resent being treated like a kid, but to Goofy, Max is his kid. Goofy’s just trying to figure out what his role is now that Max is growing up and doesn’t want him around as much. Cue the sad feels.

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But then the song starts and all the happy feels! They totally make peace and love each other to bits.

Max

There are times you drive me, shall we say, bananas

And your mind is missing, no offense, a screw

Still, whatever mess I land in

Who is always understandin’?

Nobody else but you

Goofy

Oh, your moodiness is now and then, bewilderin’

And your values may be, so to speak, askew

I love how it’s Max that makes the effort to go first and it takes him a few tries to get it going. Goofy and Max both have their differences, but none of that really matters in the long run. Family and dads in particular, are there for you when you mess up. Say you impersonate a pop star to get the girl and then tell her you know that pop star and will be on stage at his concert and give her a shout out and then have to highjack your father/son bonding trip to make it happen.

Goofy, for his part, is just dealing with what all parents do: that shift that happens when kids become teenagers. Parents have a hard game to play because they need to give their kids space to learn on their own, figure out who they are, and let them make their own choices. Teenage years are that inbetween phase and it’s hard for everyone involved.

goofy movie always my son

Nobody else but you

It’s just our luck

We’re stuck together

Nobody else but you

Is crazy enough to believe we’ll come through

Parents pretty much always have your back. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, sometimes my mom flat out has to tell me, “I’m always on your side.” We don’t get to pick our parents and parents do not get to pick their kid. It really is luck, pretty much, that got us here. That’s what family is. There are hard times and confusing times and sad times, but family are the people you’re always supposed to have in your corner. They’re automatically there for you.

Max

So your jokes are all, let’s face it, pre-historic 

Goofy

And your music sounds like monkeys in a zoo

Both

But when life becomes distressin’

Who’ll I be S.O.S’in? 

See, your automatic. They’re who you call when shit goes to hell. No matter what your differences, big or small, material or moral, you’re stuck with them so suck it up. No, kidding. But it’s nice. Sadly, not everyone does have their automatic. But adoptive parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and even good friends can be that automatic, too. Because really, it was luck you got them, too.

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Both

Hard times we’ve had a few

Goofy

Like we’re thrown in the drink

Max

Like we’re tossed outta town

Both

But when I start to sink, than I’d rather go down

With nobody else but Y-O-U!

The visuals here have them actually sinking since they get sucked in a whirlpool, which is a silly animation touch. This ending section is pretty much everything I’ve been saying. Like Aladdin and Cassim and their hard times, Goofy and Max have had something more akin to ‘normal problems’ but if all you have are ‘normal problems’ then well… they feel like big problems. But both pairs of fathers and sons were able to work it out in the end. Cause, family.

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Conclusion

In what was probably the cheesiest meta in AM history…

No, but seriously. Okay all these songs are nice and all, but why are they all between fathers and sons? There are way more daughter/dad duos in animation. Especially in Disney with their KILL THE MOM fetish. That leaves so many princesses with fathers (Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, & Pocahontas) (Aurora, Hercules, Mulan all had moms also, but their dads arguably played a much larger role in their stories.) The Lion King was also largely about Mufasa and Simba, while Sarabi had a very minor role. If you go the Pixar route, look at The Incredibles which yes, featured a family, but the dad had the biggest storyline.

Turn to Dreamworks and The Croods is about a family, but again largely revolves around the father character. Even in the Shrek franchise we meet Fiona’s dad and Shrek 2 is largely about Shrek and Fiona’s dad finding common ground. How to Train Your Dragon finds Hiccup without a mother, though this is rectified in part two (so amazing), but the dad so far has played a much larger role in the story. Maybe this will be different in movie 3 (if we get one/are we getting one?).

From other studios, we have Despicable Me, which focuses on a foster/adoptive father. Could Gru have been a woman? In The Swan Princess, Odette’s mother dies in the very beginning and though her father dies a bit later into the film, she was still raised by him and seemingly close. Look at how many more father figures feature prominently in animated movies. Anastasia is mostly about Anya and her grandma, but in the beginning, before it all goes to shit, Anya dances with her father and then imagines dancing with him again in Once Upon a December.

While I am unhappy with the lack of mom-rep, the amount of dad-rep is overwhelming. So why few songs about dad and family? Why does romance get all the best songs?

However, for the songs we do get, they’re all positive. It’s good. All is happy in animated-dad land. Unless you’re Kayley’s dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Who is your fave animated dad?

Follow AM on Twitter and Tumblr.

Cheers,

M&M

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10 Animated Women That Inspire Us to Epicness: Mel Edition

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Since this month is Women’s History Month, I decided to take a trip through animated history and talk about some of the animated women who have inspired me over the years, and what it is that makes them truly amazing.

1. Kim Possible

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A cheerleader who saves the world? Whoever thought of Kim deserves all of the awards, because she is awesome and super fleshed out. We don’t often get heroines with realistic life skills, but Kim’s cheerleading and gymnastics background is part of why she’s so adept at the world-saving business.

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Selfless, bold and determined, Kim inspires us to take a stand and embrace what makes us unique. She also has an amazing sense of fashion, especially when it comes to saving the world, and having a heroine who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to be perceived as tough is amazing.

2. Ginger Foutley

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I think Ginger Foutley is one of the most underrated ladies in animation. Ginger isn’t the typical protagonist: she’s an introvert and writer, which we don’t see too often, and uses her writing to both express herself and be creative. Two of the show’s best episodes (Hello Stranger, And She was Gone) hone in on Ginger’s writing, and how it ties into her personal life in a fantastic way.

Other reasons Ginger is awesome: she’s stubborn, endearing in how she handles the chaos life throws at her, and she cares deeply for her friends and family, even if they drive her crazy at times. Her growth throughout the series is fantastic, and she’s definitely a character I can go back to even now and still relate to, because she reminds me of a younger time in my life when I went through similar struggles. Basically, Ginger’s just awesome, and the grass really is greener for her, even if it takes her a while to realize that.

3. Katara

katara's water armskatara thinks his rules suck (1.18)

Katara is a force to be reckoned with. You can’t knock her down, no matter how hard you try. She’s so many things rolled into one awesome person. She’s a healer, a motherly figure, a fighter, a teacher, a friend, a sister… She’s not only physically strong, she’s also emotionally strong; she’s the rock of the Aang Gaang, who holds everyone together when the going gets tough. She’s the one who keeps hope, no matter how grim and dark the circumstances. She sees the best in others, even when they can’t see it in themselves, and she won’t give up on the people who need her most, even if it puts herself at risk. Her compassion, empathy and fighter’s spirit make her an inspiration, and someone many people could learn from.

4. Princess Jasmine

aladdin jasminealaddin done w your shit

Like I’ve said before, Jasmine is one of the most underrated Disney princesses ever. She’s politically savvy, has a strong sense of self, is snarky and refuses to settle for jerks who only want her for her money. She has a great sense of adventure, isn’t afraid to rebel in order to find the freedom and agency she desires.

She’s someone who will only accept someone who respects her and treats her as an equal for a future husband. Anyone who would dare treat her like a prize to be won is not worth her time. She shows us that agency and equality are two important things for women to strive for, and that settling for someone who doesn’t appreciate your worth is ridiculous. Her relationship with Aladdin shows us that honesty and respect are the two foremost foundations of what a relationship should be, and her determination to decide her own future despite the rules that oppress her is super admirable. Remind me again why she’s so underrated? Because she really shouldn’t be.

5. Belle

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A princess who reads, dreams big and refuses to conform to society’s standards for her because she knows that she is worth so much more and deserves so much more = one amazing Disney princess.

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Belle is intelligent, kind-hearted, and doesn’t care what people think of her. No matter how many people in her small town scoff at her oddities, she really doesn’t care. She also refuses to let anyone harass her or push her around, as evidenced by her smoothness in evading Gaston’s advances, and her yelling at the Beast and calling him out on his jerky behavior. She’s just awesome, and I think if we were all a little more like Belle and followed our dreams, we’d certainly be happier. (Also a good thing to emulate from Belle: her book-buying habits. Or better yet, marry a prince and get your own personal library.)

6. Asami Sato

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Asami is a girly heiress who also happens to be a savvy businesswoman, a smart girl who loves flashy cars, and a fighter who’s handy with an electric glove against enemies. She is someone with integrity and lots of inner strength, who was strong enough to stand up against her father when his own integrity was lost, and who built up his company from the ground up after his imprisonment.

asami bitch I'm fabulous

She is also a rare representation of bisexuality in animation, which is really important. People of all orientations, races, genders, exc deserve to be shown, and Asami’s relationships with Mako and Korra are exactly that.

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Kudos to the creators for letting someone as amazing as Asami get some spotlight, and giving us a character who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to be strong, who can  take the world by storm, and is just generally an awesome influence.

7. Ariel

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I know, this is like my third Disney princess on the list, but hey, I was a Disney kid. I grew up on Disney movies, and the Disney Renaissance was in its prime when I was little, so I had some amazing influences because of that. One of these is Ariel, who is one of the most proactive Disney princesses ever.

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She needs cool knickknacks for the grotto? Easy: she’ll go explore that sunken ship and take down any sharks that get in the way. She wants to explore the shores up above, so she goes up there herself and later makes a deal with a sea witch to find a more permanent place on land. The prince she likes is in danger? Ariel dives down without any hesitation and saves him from drowning, and then later saves him (again) from being forced into a marriage with an evil sea witch. This girl is a total determinator: nothing gets in her way, not even losing her voice. She never gives up, never lets anyone break her spirit, and fights for what she wants, no matter how hard it is to achieve. If you want something, make like Ariel and be proactive. Fight to achieve your dreams.

8. Cinderella

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Cinderella was my favorite princess when I was little, and inspired me a lot growing up. Her perseverance, strength, and strong sense of self-worth make her an amazing role model for young girls. She’s always putting other people before herself, so when she finally puts herself first, it’s such a wonderful thing to watch. She teaches us that while it’s good to be kind to others, we need to be kind and value ourselves as well. She also teaches us to never give up on our dreams, because if you believe and work hard, whatever you wish for will be.

9. The Totally Spies

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I can’t just pick one of them, so I’m doing all of them: the Totally Spies! I used to love this show so much, especially because it was nice to get three completely different girls who all kicked butt and saved the world on a daily basis. Plus, they used amazing girly gadgets, like laser lipsticks and weaponized hairdryers. A few examples:

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The best thing about the Totally Spies for me was that they all brought something different to the team, and always managed to save each other from trouble. Sam, Alex and Clover are all awesome in their own way, and each has their own strengths that make them an integral part of the team. Take one girl away, and something was lost from the team. How can you compete with that brand of awesome?

10. Jazz and Maddie Fenton

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Brilliant women are really underrated in fiction, and Jazz and Maddie Fenton are two super savvy, super smart ladies. Maddie is an inventor, whipping up amazing ghost-fighting tools every week, and Jazz is both book smart and a sneaky plotter, as evidenced by how she repeatedly tricks Vlad in Secret Weapons, and how long she manages to keep her knowledge of Danny’s secret a secret, even from him. Their brilliance results in lots of awesome moments in-series, and both inspire us to seek knowledge and put it to an epic use, such as ghost-hunting or plotting to take down evil antagonists.

Which animated girl inspires you the most and why? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have an epic Tuesday! (And happy St. Patrick’s Day as well!)

Cheers,

M&M

The 8 Reasons Aladdin is Amazing

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Aladdin (and its sequels) are pretty amazing, and I’ve wanted to meta about them for quite some time, so I decided to boil down the reasons why these movies are awesome sauce. (Note: I mainly focused on Aladdin, but did talk a bit about Return of Jafar and King of Thieves as well, so if you haven’t seen those, spoilers ahead!)

1. Aladdin is the Disney Prince of my heart.

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Aladdin is my favorite Disney Prince. Okay, so he’s not really a prince, but to be fair, he ends up becoming one, so I’d like to say he counts. Aladdin is just awesome. He’s selfless, kind, funny, adventurous, and gives me lots of feelings.

He’s probably our most developed male lead, and it really pays off with him, because he’s just a really fun main character to follow around. He’s a thief with a heart of gold, and while his first scene involves him running from guards, his character establishing scene is when he gives the bread to those two adorable kids on the street.

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After that, how can you not love him? It’s just… ❤

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His loyalty is one of his best traits. When he promises something, he doesn’t go back on it. Example: his promise to free Genie. Even when he risks out on losing a chance to be with Jasmine, he frees Genie anyway, because that was what he promised, and because he knows how important freedom is to Genie.

He also owns up to his mistakes when he makes them, even if sometimes it takes him a bit of time to stop fretting and do so. When he upsets Jasmine by being a jerk and talking about her future behind her back, he realizes that he’s made an idiot of himself and tells her that she’s right, and she should be free to make her own choice.

He also attempts to tell Jasmine the truth about how he really is before Jafar exposes him, and later apologizes for deceiving her, after the whole mess with Jafar is over with. It’s part of his wonderful character arc, involving his identity and how people view him vs. how he sees himself. One of Aladdin’s biggest woes in the movie is him being sick of the classism he deals with. He wishes people would stop just viewing him as a poor boy and a street rat, and that they’d look beyond the label and see him for who he really is. Thus, we get that whole plot where he thinks he needs to be something he’s not to win over Jasmine when really, all he ever needed to be was his adorable charming self.

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2. Jasmine is incredibly underrated and amazing.

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Jasmine is so underrated, and I don’t even understand why, because she’s amazing. She’s witty, loyal, compassionate, determined, confident…

She’s someone who thinks on her feet and uses her wit and cunning to get out of tough situations. Two great examples: 1) when she pretends to be in love with Jafar to distract him, and 2) when she jumped right into Aladdin’s improv in the marketplace when a guard tried to cut off her hand.

Jasmine is also incredibly confident in herself and her self-worth. She has high standards and doesn’t want to just settle for whatever rich guy shows up at her doorstep. She side-eyes her suitors, who let’s be real, are probably just trying to marry her to get money. She also does not stand for people telling her what to do. When she overhears her father, Jafar and ‘Prince Ali’ talking about who should marry Jasmine, she gets furious and goes off on them in what has to be one of my favorite rants ever:

aladdin how dare you

“How dare you! All of you, standing around, deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!”

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Like most of our Disney Princesses, Jasmine longs for something more. In her case, that something more is her desire for agency, so she can make her own choices. She wants to choose where to go, rather than being stuck behind the palace walls. She wants to marry for love rather than business. And more importantly, she just wants people to listen to her and respect her choices. Jafar doesn’t do that. Her father also doesn’t do that, at first, anyway, but he comes around eventually. The first person who respects her and listens to her is Aladdin, and guess what? He’s the guy she ends up falling in love with because of that.

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I just love her and how much she loves herself, and how Disney wasn’t afraid to give us a heroine who is cunning and a little bit snarky and also incredibly confident and stubborn. Like Ariel and Belle did before her, Jasmine paves the way for the princesses that come after her, and that’s part of why I ❤ her so much.

3. Two fully fleshed out dual protagonists who build on what’s come before them, and create an even stronger foundation for future characters.

First we had Phillip and Aurora. Next came Eric and Ariel. While Phillip and Eric got quite a bit of development, and we spend a bit of the movie with them, The Little Mermaid focused more on Ariel, and as for Sleeping Beauty… well, quite honestly Phillip could’ve been a bit more fleshed out as a character, considering the fact that he’s pretty voiceless in the second half.

Beauty and the Beast comes after those, and we get so much wonderful development for both Belle and the Beast. The Beast is probably the first prince with a character arc, which is very important, because that builds on Aladdin, where we have two main characters with pretty equally split screen-time and two very strong character arcs.

Aladdin wants people to see him for who he really is, not just as a street rat. We even get a whole song about this, which I am embedding below because it gives me lots of feelings:

Jasmine wants to gain some agency and learn about life behind the palace walls. She doesn’t have a song. However, we do get this really awesome discussion with her dad, which basically amounts to an ‘I want’ chat, where Jasmine lays down the law with her father and tells him that she wants to marry for love, and she loathes the rules that bind her.

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The  musical also has this amazing song that kind of sums this up in a song called “These Palace Walls:”

We spend a pretty equal amount of time jumping between Jasmine and Aladdin, and when they finally meet, we’re rooting for them to get together because they’re both awesome. More importantly, we the audience have gotten to know both characters well at this point, and thus we’ve invested in their journeys going forward. We want them both to have their own happy ending. We want Jasmine to get that agency and freedom she desires. We want Aladdin to realize that he’s more than the label he’s been given, and to find someone who can see past that and love him for him. Heck, we even care about more minor characters like the Genie and his want to be free.

The character development and dual arcs in Aladdin set the tone for future Disney movies like Tangled, where we get more focus on each side of the couple. It’s pretty awesome how all of Disney’s animation builds on itself, isn’t it? Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, our most fully realized pairing thus far of the Disney Princess films.

4. Aladdin and Jasmine are the ultimate OTP, basically.

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Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship is really important to me. Not only are both incredibly fleshed out, but their relationship is formed on trust and respect, which are two very important building blocks in a relationship. After Aladdin gets Jasmine out of that tight spot in the marketplace, we get that awesome scene in the movie where they hang out and bond on the rooftops. Here, a foundation of respect begins.

For Aladdin, it starts when Jasmine pole-vaults her way across the rooftop, and proves that she isn’t quite as much of a damsel as Aladdin seems to think she is. Aladdin’s wide-eyed look leads into him respecting Jasmine, and only grows as they talk about that feeling of being trapped. Granted, they’re referring to two different things (Aladdin, life on the streets; Jasmine, life in the palace) but they both understand that feeling of being trapped by people’s expectations and rules. For Jasmine, it’s the fact that Aladdin actually listens to her, which no one else really does.

We also get this wonderful moment:

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Which later leads into this fantastic moment:

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In between this point, we’ve had Jasmine dealing with ‘Prince Ali’ (who she doesn’t know is Aladdin), and there’s a very important distinction made. Aladdin thinks that being a prince and becoming something he’s not is what will win Jasmine over, since surely she’d never want to marry a street rat. But Jasmine is taken aback by Prince Ali’s arrogance. All of the claims made in Prince Ali, about his wealth, possessions and status, mean nothing to her.

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It’s not until she realizes that Prince Ali = Aladdin, and Aladdin starts showing her his real self, not his egotistical alter ego, that she falls head over heels in love with him.

The “do you trust me?” moment is important not only because Aladdin is asking for consent to take her on this adventure, rather than just taking her along for the ride, but also because it shows that Jasmine is impressed by the sentiment. Aladdin showing Jasmine a whole new world can be referenced in two ways: 1) him showing her around the kingdom, and 2) showing her the kind of affection and respect that she has never gotten from another guy, or well, anyone, really.

reaction dead from the feels

Plus, these two make an amazing team. They’re equals in their relationship, which is really important. They also get the most development out of any of the Disney couples, because we have three movies and a TV series to follow their growth through. By the time of Prince of Thieves, Aladdin and Jasmine have been together for some time. They’ve seen the world, they’ve grown and changed as people, and more importantly, they know each other so much more than they did at the start of the movie. Their relationship has strengthened and grown, and so has their trust and respect for one another. Them getting married feels more important than past marriages, because whereas we never really got that growth before, here we get to watch the relationship unfold. Here, it feels more significant, and more developed as a whole.

aladdin wedding kiss

Plus, look at how cute these two are!

aladdin she knew it

aladdin this otp

5. All of the songs are flawless and catchy.

Aladdin is one of those movies that I always wind up humming along to when it’s on. Every song from this movie is catchy, from “Arabian Nights” to “A Whole New World.” Each song has a purpose, adds something to the plot, and more importantly, is awesome to listen to. My favorite of the bunch is probably “A Whole New World,” which I rambled a lot about in the Disney Love Songs meta I wrote last month with Mic, so I won’t bore you with more rambling.

But seriously, the music is awesome. Even the sequels have good songs! Return of Jafar gives Jafar a true villain song with “You’re Only Second Rate” while Prince of Thieves just has awesome songs all around, like “Out of Thin Air” (which is one of my favorites) and “Are You In Or Out?”

I do want to talk about the nice juxtaposition in the music, with the opening of Aladdin, and the ending of The Prince of Thieves. Aladdin opens with “Arabian Nights” which is essentially our introduction to the world, and then shows us the merchant, who is essentially our narrator of the story. Then Prince of Thieves, the final movie, ties up the storyline by ending with the “Arabian Nights (Reprise)” in which the merchant finishes his story up for us. It’s a really cool way to tie together the series, and it shows the awesome continuity that the movies share.

aladdin arabian nights reprise gif

6. Jafar is a pretty awesome villain.

aladdin jafar cackling

I’ll admit it: Jafar is pretty twisted.

But that’s part of what makes him an effective villain. Jafar is our first male antagonist of a Disney Princess movie, and he’s a quite chilling one. He’s manipulative, petty, possessive, entitled, and he has a very deadpan sense of humor.

Like Gaston before him, Jafar feels entitled to lots of things. He thinks he deserves the kingdom. He thinks he deserves Jasmine. One of the great things about Jafar is that in a way, his relationship with Jasmine is the exact opposite of Jasmine’s relationship with Aladdin. While Aladdin respects Jasmine and her feelings, Jafar just kind of doesn’t. Jafar sees Jasmine as a trophy that he deserves, and Jasmine points out, she’s not a prize to be won. Unfortunately, Jafar never really gets that through his thick skull, or maybe he just doesn’t care. Either way, his lack of regard for Jasmine’s feelings and his attempts at forcing her into a relationship are shown as despicable, as they should be. It’s a great way of highlighting a not healthy relationship vs. a healthy one.

aladdin drink in the face

Unlike Gaston, who was mostly all talk and no bite, Jafar has the dark magic to back himself up. He’s also a fairly clever villain, who uses hypnotism and trickery in order to achieve his goals. His plot to steal the lamp from Aladdin, for example, was actually pretty clever. But like Gaston before him, Jafar’s arrogance is his downfall, and his wish to be a genie and get that unlimited power he desires ends up backfiring when he forgets that power always has a price. In his case, that means being shackled to a lamp. Whoops. Maybe he should’ve remembered that old adage: be careful what you wish for.

In Return of Jafar, Jafar doesn’t quite learn from his past lessons. He is a bit sneakier, which ends up helping him out for a while, but his flair for dramatics, and the way that he treats people as pawns rather than people (his treatment of Iago, for example) ends up screwing him over in the end when Iago leads directly to his defeat. Even cosmic powers can’t help you out when you just don’t leave from your past mistakes.

8. The Genie.

aladdin genie

Do I even need to go into why the Genie is awesome? Genie is awesome, not only because he has cool cosmic powers and makes great puns, but also because he’s the character who plays the voice of reason for Aladdin. He’s the one pressuring Aladdin to just fess up and tell Jasmine the truth, and to stop worrying so much about everyone else thinks and just be himself.

aladdin tell her the truth

He also has an awesome song (“Friend Like Me”). And he gives us lots of feelings. He is also voiced by the incredible Robin Williams (may he RIP), who did such an amazing job bringing Genie to life. I’ll just sum this up by including that scene that gives us all feelings and happiness:

8. Aladdin and Jasmine have awesome relationships with their dads!

I’ve talked a lot about how Aladdin builds off of the films that came before it, and this is very true in how it portrays the relationships with Jasmine/the Sultan and Aladdin/Cassim.

Previous Disney movies gave us some pretty great father/daughter and father/son bonds: Phillip and his father, Ariel and her father, Belle and her father…

And with both Aladdin and Jasmine, we get to see their relationships with their fathers grow and unfold. In Aladdin, we focus solely on Jasmine’s relationship with her father, the Sultan. The Sultan means well (“I just want you to be taken care of”), but the problem is that he’s so caught up in rules and tradition that he doesn’t realize that Jasmine knows what she wants and is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. He slowly realizes this over the course of the movie. Jafar turning out to be a traitor, and him seeing Jasmine’s independent spirit and her love for Aladdin, shakes him out of his daze and leads to him becoming closer to Jasmine and giving her the agency she desires to make her own choices.

aladdin father daughter cuteness

In Aladdin’s case, it’s a bit different. While Jasmine grew up with her father, sheltered, Aladdin lived on the streets exposed to a harsh world that treated him like crap, basically. When he finds out his father’s alive, he has lots of complicated feelings about him, because as he says, “What kind of man leaves his son?”

Aladdin has always felt abandoned by his father. He never had that fatherly figure to look up to. He didn’t have a father to guide or shape him the way that Jasmine did. As he says in “Out of Thin Air:”

Your father’s a man who taught you who you are;

Mine was never there

The fact that his father wasn’t there for him was a sore subject, especially when he realizes that his father is alive and off being the King of Thieves which to him feels like his dad didn’t care enough to come find him. However, just like Jasmine and the Sultan, Aladdin and his father begin to bond and understand one another. And just like the Sultan, Cassim learns to value his son and who he is as a person. Much like Jafar, Cassim was pretty obsessed with power, but whereas Jafar got consumed by power, Cassim follows in his son’s footsteps and realizes that power isn’t everything. He’d rather have his son – and his awesome future family.

While he doesn’t stick around, Aladdin doesn’t begrudge him for it, and Cassim leaves at the end of King of Thieves to go on his own trip to see the world, with Iago in tow. I’d like to think that trip led to some character growth for them, just as Aladdin and Jasmine grew in the animated series when they went off to see the world. 😉

aladdin cassim iago

What is your favorite Aladdin movie? What’s your favorite song? And what do you guys love most about the trilogy? Sound off in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great Tuesday!

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