Earlier in the year, I made the decision to periodically devote a post to a television show or movie when it hits a significant event in its history (i.e. series premiere, series finale, film release, anniversary of a release, etc.). Much like books, these mediums just as effectively provide the power of storytelling themselves, and I find it wisest to explore that aspect of them. Previously, I gave my input on the latest Disney and Pixar creation, “Inside Out.” Today’s scenario will be a little different, for not only will I provide my thoughts about Disney itself, but also my thoughts about four films I will be seeing from its Disney Screen event that’s currently taking place in select movie theaters.
Many of us have more or less grown up with hearing the name “Disney” as an entity of our lives. Who would have thought that a young boy growing up in Kansas City would one day be the founder of the biggest conglomerate in the world. There are theme parks baring his name, TV channels as well, recording companies, as well as the film productions and franchises it owns now like Marvel and Lucasfilm.
But of course at the core root of it all, the testament to Disney’s legacy that just as well continues on to this day are the films; from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “The Jungle Book,” to “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6.” These films have been loved and hated, admired and debated, for as much as the films have been loved overall, that’s not to say that their family-friendly take makes them without flaws, for many of these films are actually quite flawed.
There are many to name, but these are just some that dominate the numerous thought pieces written about Disney films nowadays:
- A huge chunk of the human characters are not that diverse. Someone once asked me to look up all the Asian/Asian American characters in Disney films, and needless to say it was a very quick search.
- For the longest time, the female characters have been very ill portrayed; often restricting them to very limited activities, never being able to fend for themselves, and for the most part, always falling in love in the end.
- Many of the films are adaptations of previously written works; in particular, fairy tales and classic literature. In fact, it’s so much of a common occurrence that when watching a behind-the-scenes feature on the 2003 film “Brother Bear,” the co-directors even went as far as to say how much creative control they found themselves in, because of the fact that the story they were telling was an original one.
Have the films gotten better over the years? Definitely so. As of the Disney Renaissance era, there’s been a shift for more diverse characters, better written female characters, better written story lines (though still not exactly original), and more. Within recent years, even more so, and from the looks of things ahead, it’s likely to improve even more. It’s a sign of the times, and if anything, it shows just how Disney can adjust to that; by improving the content geared to its audience. The many makers that have since filled in the large shoes Walt Disney himself has left behind are starting to understand now how the content they create is very influential, and even define a generation for that matter. That’s why I was so happy to see an animated film from Disney, where its lead was Hapa, won Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards this year, and that’s why I’m really looking forward to see an animated film come out next year that takes place in the South Pacific called “Moana.” Many of the Disney films from decades past have their share of flaws, but I’m glad to see how the makers can improve it in the future to come.
Needless to say though that many of these films are nostalgic to look back on for sentimental reasons; whether it be for the songs, a funny character, and what not; and as of last month, in select theaters across the country, they’re actually showing some of these past Disney films over the course of a few months. It’s called Disney Screen. Each week features a set of four films that fall under a certain theme, and this changes from week to week. I am very fortunate to live near one of these theaters that’s doing Disney Screen, and while I haven’t seen any films offered from this limited programming yet, I’m about to over the course of the next four weeks. Each week features at least one film that I intend to see on the big screen, and many of which highlight the improvements Disney has made in making stronger, better movies. I would like highlight which films I have my eyes set on for watching on the big screen:
“Lilo and Stitch” (2002)
This is definitely one of my favorite animated Disney films. Set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, it follows the story of a girl named Lilo who adopts a runaway alien experiment she names Stitch. Over the course of the film, we see the bond between the two develop, as both are ostracized in their communities, and the meaning of ohana plays out into fruition.
I remember seeing this movie when it came out. Being ten years old at the time, it was nice for a weird kid like me to see a movie about a weird kid who gains a friend. Not to mention that the setting of Hawaii was a clever idea, for how the movie went about with incorporating cultural elements into the plot made the film that much more effective. I look forward to seeing this movie within the coming days.
This is another one of my favorite animated Disney films, as it retells the Chinese legend of woman warrior, Fa Mulan. In the movie, we see Mulan as a young woman struggling to bring honor to her family by “traditional” means of doing so for the times- to become a bride. However, when her ailing father, who is the only man in her family, is called out to war, Mulan secretly takes his place by disguising herself as a man.
I also saw this in movie theaters at the time of its release. I was six at the time. Even for my young age then, I knew how various “Disney princesses” that came before Mulan were not exactly the most proactive women in movie history. To see a woman like Mulan take action the way she did to protect someone she loves was really amazing to see. Plus, let’s be real, who hasn’t broken out into “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” whenever possible?
“Wall-E” is one of the many collaborations between Disney and Pixar Animation Studio, and it’s also my favorite by them as well. Set 700 years in the future when humans have abandoned Earth after it has become heavily trashed, we find Wall-E, a lone trash-cleaning robot who falls in love with a sleek probe robot EVE. However, his admiration for her suddenly pulls Wall-E into a whirlwind of adventure as he suddenly finds himself working together with EVE with returning the human race back to Earth.
Pixar has to be one of the most innovative film companies in the world, and I found this one to be the most innovative one by them yet. Apart from telling a really cute love story, it also touches on issues that are prevalent to even today’s time, such as consumerism, pollution, nostalgia and technology. Also, while a relatively small element, I loved how for the first half hour of the film, there’s very little dialogue, for it shows that dialogue isn’t always needed to tell a good story. It’s funny about the timing “Wall-E” had came out, for I had actually visited Pixar a few weeks before its release. Just from the “Wall-E”-themed decor up at the time, that alone was likely a sign that this film was going to be something special.
“Robin Hood” (1973)
Regardless of whether or not you’ve read the books about him, the name Robin Hood hones familiarity on some level or another. With the characters as anthropomorphic animals rather than human characters, Disney’s retelling of this classic English character touches on the elements that Robin Hood is known for: he may be an outlaw, but the robberies he commits are for giving back to the poor and putting the rich in their place.
Given the year of its theatrical release, this is the only film out of the four that I have named that I was not alive to see at the time. However, I did watch this film a lot as a kid, and I always found it a really interesting movie to see, perhaps out of Robin Hood’s cleverness to get away with his doings and the thoughtfulness behind his actions as well. I personally have not read the books about him, so while I don’t know exactly how accurate Disney’s portrayal was to the actual story, I find it to at least be a good overview of him nonetheless. I await to see what this film looks like on the big screen.
So what do you guys think? Do you live near a theater that’s doing Disney Screen and if so, which movies have you already seen or plan to see? Even if you don’t live near a theater that’s doing this, which past Disney movies would want to see on the big screen if you had the opportunity to do so?
Also, what are your thoughts about the evolution of Disney movies? Do you think they’re getting better? Plus, how can they improve in the future to come?
Please note that I am not sponsored by Disney nor am I being paid to write this piece about Disney Screen. I did it because I love Disney films and I figured that this would make an interesting, prevalent topic. If you do want to learn more about Disney Screen though, I’d advise you check out the Cinemark website.