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And the Good Thing Is...
By Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

 

Amongst the many types of girls I am, I'm a Disney girl. My family is a Disney family. My mother and grandmother both think that Walt Disney should have a national holiday in his honor. I tend to agree. He and the bevy of talented people he surrounded himself with have brought me and the people I love an enormous amount of joy. My mother is not a moviegoer, but when I was young, she took us to see all of the Disney movies when they came out. We didn't miss a one. And going to Disneyland and Disneyworld as a child was a wonder - memories so delightful that they make me smile to this day - family together, happy together, excitement, exhilaration and joy. Everyone got along in Disneyland and you never minded the lines.

I went to Disneyland a couple of years ago. It was the first time I'd been to a Disney theme park in my adult life. I had the best day. I appreciated it on an entirely different level. The rides were fun, but the park was magic. There were tons of people but they were all being nice to each other. The park was clean, no dust on the Pirates of the Caribbean, no litter on the walkways, no overflowing trash cans. I was with my boyfriend and we both found it very romantic and held hands most of the day. The lights, the decorations, the staff, it was so bright and colorful and clean and otherworldly and magical. I know that we spent a lot of money on admission and food and souvenirs to get it that way and I know the staff went through rigorous training and followed Nazi-esque rules to make me as happy as I was, but I was so happy that I didn't care.

Recently, though, on the Disney film front, I have become disappointed, then peeved, then pissed, then livid. I used to love Disney movies, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, all of them. The Little Mermaid was adorable and Beauty and the Beast is one of my ten favorite movies of all time.

But the downward spiral started with The Lion King - Disney's "original" movie. "Original" scenes lifted from everything from Star Wars to Nazi propaganda films. And the score by Elton John, so touted, so saccharine, was a poor substitute for Ashman and Menken's rousing works in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

The Lion King was boring and cliche, simply disappointing.

Nothing like walking into a cinema complex and seeing the six foot, cardboard marketing material for Pocahontas. Pocahontas, standing on a flower-strewn hill, buckskin neatly dipped to show nice cleavage and fringed high enough to show a good expanse of leg, breasts shoved forward, shoulders held back, animals and a man in the distance looking at her lasciviously. Yes, even the animals seemed to look at her lasciviously. I was pretty peeved when I saw that but not when I heard (yes, I must say heard because once I heard I refused to pay money to see the film) what the story was about and the bastardization of Pocahontas' life in order for Disney to make a little cash, it seriously made me pissed. Furthermore, marketing this to children, teaching them this revisionist history for the money and the spoils, it was nauseating.

But pissed was short lived. I became so angry at Disney's next film venture that I almost swore off all Disney forever. I saw The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Disney's El Capitan theater on Hollywood Boulevard (a gorgeous theater, by the way). We got the tickets that included beverage and popcorn brought to you in your seat and the floorshow. Being the Disney fan that I was (regardless of The Lion King and Pocahontas), I was moved by the floor show and just the sweet magic that is Disney. Then I saw the movie. Granted, the animation was thrilling, but kidifying a book that is generally excepted as a masterpiece is intolerable. Talking, singing gargoyles...the fate of Esmerelda reversed and romanticized...Hugo was probably spinning in his grave.

Disney had sunk so low as to never recover. I haven't seen the film fare from Disney since The Hunchback simply on principle (although my boyfriend says I'd love Mulan and Tarzan).

But, last Monday, I went to our local Imax and caught Fantasia 2000.

I enjoyed Fantasia; I thought it was an interesting idea and fun.

But Fantasia 2000 is something else altogether.

I was brought to tears three times due to the spectacular beauty of the images and the music. The colors, the sound, the grandeur of Imax, it was overwhelming. When it was over, I wanted to sit down and watch it again. I haven't wanted to do that with a film since I saw LA Confidential.

I can't even say which is my favorite part: "The Pines of Rome" with the whales flying or "The Firebird Suite" with the sweeping, beauty of animated life quickly and frighteningly turning to ash only to rise up and spread its joy of beauty again. Dear God in Heaven, it moves me just thinking about it. The idea of "Pomp and Circumstance" with Donald, Daisy and Noah's Arc was a stroke of genius. And "Rhapsody in Blue", by my favorite Composer, Gershwin, was funny and moving and inspirational.

Appearances by James Earl Jones, Itzhak Perlman, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Quincy Jones and Bette Midler were understated and amusing. The entire presentation was regal, the symphony and animators sitting together somewhere in the heavens, the screens floating behind them. It was timeless, stunning, dramatic...I can continue with adjectives that all mean about the same thing or I could say this...

...it couldn't have been done any better and I can't wait for them to do it again.

Welcome back, Disney.

 




CineScene, 2000