Zootopia (2016)

No, this movie isn’t out on DVD yet. This is actually the first movie I feel like I have to review before I own it. For a few reasons:

  1. I’m leaving Disney and well, this is Disney. It fits in here and I’ll do it here.
  2. This movie pertains to SO MUCH going on right now in The U.S. and the world. I really want to bash this movie over everyone’s heads.

I will start by saying that I have been excited about this movie since I heard it existed. Why? Because Lasseter was excited about it when it was pitched to him. And we all know I believe Lasseter = Disney God.

I was also excited because it joins a handful of other Disney movies that do NOT feature humans (the others being Bambi, Robin Hood, The Lion King, and Chicken Little). Also excited because it was said to be a mystery, and existed in a land where animals weren’t just anthropomorphic but maintained their animal adaptations and habitats. As a biology person who loves mysteries, I was EXCITED.

Needless to say there are SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t seen the movie yet. It goes a little something like this (go with me as I’ve only seen it once and this is liable to be a LONG synopsis):

We open and get to know one of our main characters, Judy Hopps. She’s a kid in a talent show giving us the history of the land we’re in. Apparently predators used to eat prey but they’ve since evolved and now they live side by side. We also learn that Judy wants to become a cop in Zootopia, a feat which has never been accomplished by a rabbit before. Her parents (who are hilarious, btw) tell her to settle and just be a carrot farmer, but she has higher dreams.

We also see her get bullied by a fox named Gideon, which leads to her parents not trusting foxes. Then we’re thrown into a montage showing her living her dream and becoming the first rabbit ever to go through the police academy and assigned in Zootopia city center as part of Mayor Lionheart’s Mammal inclusion program. Except… Chief Bogo puts her on Meter maid duty while all the other cops are assigned to missing mammal cases (14 in total. This will be important later, I promise).

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Not willing to let it get her down, Judy gives herself the goal of writing 200 tickets before noon, which she hits before getting conned by a fox and his partner (a fennec fox) posing as a father and son wanting to buy a popsicle from a pachyderm establishment. She helps them out only to learn through following them that they melt the larger popsicle down into smaller ones to sell and make a profit (again… will be important later). She confronts him, but it doesn’t go well, and he shuts her down.

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It’s pretty good con, using a Fennec Fox as a kid.

Later she’s busy meter maid-ing when a weasel runs out of a grocery store, having robbed the place. She gets excited and pursues him until he is arrested, only to learn that he stole onions. Bogo is not happy she left her post and is ready to fire her when Mrs. Otterton comes into his office begging for someone to help her find her husband, Emmett (Emmet Otter… anyone? anyone?). Judy agrees much to Bogo’s dismay, and with the assistant Mayor Bellweather in the room, he can’t tell her she can’t. So he gives her 48 hours to find Mr. Otterton or she relinquishes her badge.

Upon getting the case file from front desk man Clawhauser (who I swore was Josh Gad for the entire movie only to learn it wasn’t…) she only has a single picture from his last known location. However, upon noticing he is carrying one of the popsicles the fox who conned her was selling, she has a starting point.

So she finds that fox, whose name is Nick, and pretty much blackmails him into helping her.

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Luckily he knows everyone in the city and through his reluctant help, they track Mr. Otterton’s whereabouts to a completely clawed up limousine. After speaking with the owner of the Limo (I won’t spoil who it belongs to), he sends them to the driver, who talks about how Mr. Otterton went all “savage” and began destroying the inside of the car after he started talking about something called the “night howler.” Judy and Nick then watch as before their eyes the driver too turns savage and they must escape.

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I would run from that too!

She calls for backup, but of course when backup, including Bogo, gets there, the savage panther driver that she had handcuffed is no longer there.

Bogo is disappointed in Judy and tells her to hand in her badge, as obviously she could not produce Mr. Otterton (and quite honestly, he doesn’t believe her about the savage story.) This is the moment Nick has a change of heart and pretty much tells Bogo off, telling him that they still have 10 hours to produce Mr. Otterton, and they will be going.

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With Nick on board completely, Judy has Assistant Mayor Bellweather pull up the traffic cams only to find that a van came by and wolves came and took the savage driver. Assuming these are the “night howlers,” they track them to a facility to find all 14 of the missing mammals. They are all savage (and all predators – that’s important too), and the Mayor has been trying to figure out what went wrong and how to get them back to normal, but no one can figure it out (this is all discovered covertly, of course). Judy sends a video of Mayor Lionheart admitting he kept the police out of it to Bogo, who goes on to arrest Lionheart.

Judy becomes a hero and respected at the police office for finding all of the missing mammals, and when they interview her, she gets a bit flustered on how to answer the questions (despite some coaching from Nick) and begins to quote what the scientist in the facility told Lionheart – that it might come down to biology and the fact that predators are hard-wired this way. Obviously this interview has some fallout. Nick can’t believe that she believes that and leaves her. Animals begin to suspect predators will turn “savage” at any moment. Lionheart is removed from office and Bellweather becomes Mayor. She in turn wants Judy to become the new face of the ZPD, to which Judy declines and turns in her badge bc this isn’t why she became a police officer, and she needs to fix this.

She returns home, where she learns through a random encounter that a “night howler” is not a wolf, but a plant (a flower actually) that will turn anyone savage – even a rabbit. With this new information, she heads back to Zootopia, finds Nick and begs forgiveness, then they’re off to find out who’s behind the plot and who’s been causing the animals to turn savage.

I’m actually going to end it here because, well, I can’t give away everything!

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so OMG this movie. How how how did they do this?

This movie is about prejudice. It’s about race and discrimination. It’s about feminism and judging people based on what they look like or do, not what they are. AND IT MAKES SENSE TO KIDS. AND IT DOES IT WELL.

This movie should belong to Pixar. Because it takes this incredibly deep message and tackles it head-on without looking back or being sorry its doing it. And it succeeds. It succeeds without bashing it over a person’s head because this is just how things work in this world. It makes sense in the world that is so unlike ours but yet… it is… so… much… like… ours.

The elephant refusing service to Nick and his partner in the beginning because he’s a fox. Discriminating against Judy because she’s a rabbit and not “big enough” to be a real cop. Nick’s entire backstory (omg i’m going to tear up). The whole thing with “only rabbits can call each other cute. When someone else says it it’s…”

Predators being affected and targeted by the Night Howler to instill fear in the general public, which we’re told is 90% prey animals. Suddenly they can’t go anywhere and do anything. They’re judged simply for being who they are. Hmm, sound familiar to a certain issue we’re all dealing with right now with syrian refugees and religious fear (not to mention the more domestic racism this country deals with on an everyday level)??

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Zootopia is a movie that starts out saying “Sly fox, dumb bunny,” but in the end it’s really about how to break those stereotypes. Judy and Nick do it. “It’s a place where anyone can be anything.”

Let’s talk about our characters for a bit. There are a lot so I am really just going to focus on our two main characters, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde.

We’re in a day and age at Disney where female characters really are capable of doing anything. We saw that in Frozen, Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, and we see that again in Zootopia. Judy doesn’t care about what rabbits “should” do. She just knows what she wants to do, and puts her mind to it and accomplishes it. She’s strong, brave, smart, and sly enough to outwit many characters she comes in contact with.

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She’s from a podunk little town where everyone has the same beliefs…. and the same prejudices. Her parents don’t trust foxes. They even give her fox repellant when she leaves for the city. She has a bad experience with Gideon (a fox) as a kid, and so of course has this preconceived notion as to what foxes are like. But even we can see in the beginning that she’s trying to fight that and be impartial. She tries to help Nick and his partner in the beginning almost to prove to herself that not all foxes are horrible. Of course this backfires, as he is what she thought, until she gets to really know him (but more on that later).

Judy is voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who I think was a great choice. She’s got a naivety to her but a very can-do attitude and the ability to talk circles. I LOVE that they use a rabbit’s natural adaptations of good hearing, speed and jumping to her advantage. I also love that through Judy we almost get a lesson as to how Cops are supposed to behave. She has this picture in her mind about what being a cop in Zootopia is going to be like, and, well… it doesn’t turn out the way she wants it to. When she’s asked to be the face of the ZPD and turns it down, she does so because she says she was brought in to help all people, and this would be turning her back on some of them. That that’s not what cops do (or something like this… I’m not quoting obviously). It’s another interesting (and timely, in the U.S.) lesson that Disney chose to stick in there quickly.

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Also, if the whole story about Judy doesn’t correspond to “women can do and be anything,” you’re just not paying attention to this movie.

Now let’s talk about Nick. He’s voiced by Jason Bateman who honestly I’m surprised took this long to voice a Disney character. I’m a fan of Bateman, especially Arrested Development, and I was excited to hear him. He does pretty well giving Nick a layer of sass and confidence that gets stripped away as the movie goes.

I’m going to give away his backstory, so if you want it a surprise… well, skip the next few paragraphs. Whereas Judy has been fighting her stereotypes her whole life to become a cop, Nick gave in to his. The only thing he ever wanted was to become a scout:

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Seriously cute

But then just as he gets an invite, he’s bullied and tormented as a kid by prey animals who said they would “never let a predator” into their scout group without a muzzle. They attack and muzzle him, humiliating him and disillusioning him in that one action with how the world really is and how predators really are seen and treated. So… he became what society wanted him to be. He became the sly fox. The con artist.

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Look how suave he is.

Is this who he really is? No. But no one ever gives him a chance to be who he’s capable of being until Judy comes along. And not even that. In the beginning when she is blackmailing him he continues to be suave, and purposefully sabotaging her investigation because, well, he thinks she’s just a dumb bunny. But then there’s the scene where they lose the savage limo driver and Bogo tells her to hand in her badge, and that she wasn’t cut out for this. In that moment, he understands. This is her moment of humiliation and disillusion that he had when he was a kid. And he’s not going to let that happen to her. In that moment, he understands that they are more alike than different. Neither of them are like their stereotypes.

Their relationship is one of the things that makes this movie so special. This is one of the few Disney movies where there really isn’t a romantic relationship central to the story, and this movie really excels BECAUSE of this. Judy and Nick have a friendship that ends up based on acceptance. Is it perfect? no. But they understand each other, and their chemistry is great.

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This is near the very end of the movie. Yeah that carrot pen is more important than you’d think

I’m not going to go into great detail, but a lot of the other side characters are great. Clawhauser (Nate Torrence – Not Josh Gad…) is the bumbling but sweet front desk cop with a love for all things “Gazelle” (a singer in Zootopia) Chief Bogo (Idris Elba… apparently he is just voicing Disney characters now)  is firm but you kinda get he’s not exactly the smartest guy in the world. We’ve got Flash the sloth, mayor Lionheart, and others to round out our cast. None of them are really that blah. They’re all funny or needed. And the jokes are good, so we’ll keep them.

But then there’s Judy’s parents (Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt), who definitely (IMO) steal the supportive character show with probably all of 10 minutes (if that) on screen. They have some of the best lines and the banter back and forth and with Judy is comic gold. How they have time to spend with one of their 389 (or something) children is beyond me, but hey, they must be awesome parents, or she must be their favorite.

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The last character I want to talk about is the villain. That being said, there are major SPOILERS ahead. I’ve kept it major spoiler free for the most part so far, but I really can’t discuss this without naming names. You have been warned.

I’ll admit it. I should have seen it coming. Disney is sort of getting into a rut with their villains these days. It’s always the person you least expect. King Candy (or Turbo), Hans, Robert Callaghan. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad way to do it (and i’m all for twists in movies), but… let’s just say in Moana I’m going to assume the bad guy is really someone who early in the movie was thought of as good.

Case in point: Bellweather. Criminal mastermind.

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In a lot of ways, it makes sense. She’s a smaller animal that feels disrespected and undervalued not only in her job but I’m sure her life. She makes jokes about it almost the entire movie, and tells Judy more than once that “us little guys gotta stick together.”She works for a lion and thus has a underlying hatred towards predators. Whereas Judy is our character who tries to defy her stereotype and Nick was one who sank into his, Bellweather represents the person who got mad at her stereotype. She blames everyone who’s not like her for the way things are and the way she’s treated, gets mad, and seeks revenge. She views the predators as having some type of edge on the world and in her mind they are the “villains” for always putting the little guys last. In her mind, she’s freeing the world from their tyranny.

I’ll come right out and say it. Bellweather is a terrorist. She uses the Night Howler to create fear and panic in the city and targets a specific group, the predators. As she says, they are in the minority (Zootopia is 90% prey animals), so the majority should go along with her, right?

Except she doesn’t speak for all the small animals, just as those savage night-howler predators don’t speak for their kind. Terrorists (as we’ve learned from our real life experiences) are typically in the minority of whatever group they come from. They don’t represent their group as a whole. And this is another thing this movie shows us.

Seriously. This movie just gets smarter and smarter the more I think about it.

Alright enough on characters. I want to talk about not only how great this animation is but OMG the world they created is unbelievable!

They could have easily just made this a busy metropolis with no character. A “look at the animals that live in a city like us” thing. But they didn’t. Instead, they took the idea of neighborhoods like in NYC and designed the city based on how animals would design it. We have Sahara square, where all the desert animals live. We have Tundra town, and the Rainforest District. And each is a different habitat, and animated beautifully. I can’t begin to tell you how brilliant and creative this is. Again. This is the kind of thing we typically expect from Pixar.

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I really wish we could have seen more of it. We got to the Rainforest District and got to see a bit of Tundratown, but I want to see all of it! Again, am I the only one wishing for a Zootopia 2?

The only other thing I’m going to say about this movie is that it is (unsurprisedly?) chock full of references. Some are extremely apparent, some are incredibly subtle (I suggest going to youtube and searching for “Zootopia Easter Eggs” if you’re curious – there are way too many to put down here). Some had me laughing so incredibly hard, some my husband didn’t catch (or didn’t know about) and some we both went “Did they really just do that in a Disney movie?”

A few of my favorites that are pretty blatant:

  • The Character of Emmett Otterton. Come on. Obviously a play on “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (both the book and the more well known muppet adaptation)
  • The weasel that steals from the grocery store in the beginning then holds the key to uncovering the villain at the end’s name is Duke Weaselton, obviously a play on the Duke of Wesselton from Frozen. Not only is he voiced by the same person (The ever awesome Alan Tudyk), but they actually call him “wesselton” in Zootopia and he corrects them “It’s Weaselton.” hahaha.
  • The Godfather reference in Tundratown. Classic.
  • And of course, the Breaking bad reference. I haven’t even seen the show but even I knew when they got in that rail car and saw the blue flowers that they were going for that. Even better when there was a knock on the door and voices go “It’s Walter and Jesse.” 10 points for Disney for that one.

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  • Also anyone notice Mrs. Otterton has the same coloring as Rapunzel from Tangled? and Nick looked an awful lot like Robin Hood?

Like I said, there’s a ton of other references. But those were some of my favorites.

This movie is… well, it’s awesome. I could probably go on and on about it and it’s pertinence to the world today, but I really don’t want to turn this into a political or incredibly depressing post. The point is that this movie teaches about prejudice, judgements, and in it’s 3 more important characters represents what happens with each road you decide to take. It’s got some amazing visuals, unforgettable characters, incredible heart and some quick wit and hilarious jokes. This movie requires more viewing by me to determine where it falls on my Disney list, but I’d be safe to say it’s probably at least in my top 10-15.

I give Zootopia (2016) a 4.5 out of 5. Solid entertainment.

Up Next: Toy Story (1995)

 

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Enchanted (2007)

I feel like I can’t move out of Disney Animation without reviewing this movie first. Half animated, half live action, I could have stuck it with when I review classics like Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon, but it just won’t fit as well there. So I’m putting it here.

When I saw the first trailer for this movie, my first thought was “Oh God that looks AWFUL.” It looked like a horrible mix of rehashed Disney movie and RomCom with way too much strangeness. I figured there’d be horrible songs and it would be campy as hell. So needless to say I didn’t go see it. Instead, I let it pass in the theaters, then I kept hearing people talk about it and how funny and great it was. Three (I think?) of the songs were up for an academy award. And that got me to thinking “hmm, maybe this movie isn’t as weird/campy as I thought? I’ll give it a watch.”

And I. Loved. It.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear about this movie. It IS campy. It IS weird. It IS a weird mix of Disney movie and RomCom. And somehow… it works at being incredibly charming.

Our movie starts in Animation, in the fictional land of Andalasia. A beautiful Maiden named Giselle dreams of finding her true love, and will know so based on their first kiss. Meanwhile, Prince Edward is hunting trolls and hears Giselle singing and must go find her. He rescues her from a troll, they sing together and are ready to be married. But just before the wedding, Prince Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narissa, pushes Giselle down a well that transports her to Life-action land and NYC.

Trying to figure out where she is and cope and get back to Edward, Giselle and her Naivety are taken pity on by Robert and his daughter (ok at this point mostly his daughter) Morgan. They take her back to their condo and Robert allows her to stay the night.

Meanwhile, Giselle’s chipmunk friend Pip tells Edward what happened, and he heads to Real-world land to find Giselle, along with Queen Narissa’s Henchman Nathaniel, who is tasked with making sure he doesn’t find her.

Hijinks ensue as both parties deal with being in the real world, and slowly Giselle and Robert bond. Giselle and Edward are eventually reunited, but at this point she has changed immensely from having learned about the real world, but still agrees to go back to Andalasia after going on “A date.”

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Aka: let’s do everything touristy in New York!

This date culminates with a dance, in which Queen Narissa, after losing faith in Nathaniel, shows herself in the real world and poisons Giselle. After attempting to bring her back to life and failing, Edward realizes her true love is Robert. He kisses her and brings her back to life. Upset, Queen Narissa turns into a dragon,and fights not Edward but Giselle at the top of the building. She wins, the dragon plummets to the ground, Giselle stays with Robert, Roberts Fiance goes to Andalasia with Edward, and no one in NYC seems to pay any attention

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This movie could have so easily been awful. It has a lot of Homages to classic Disney movies, it has a lot of strangeness, and it pretty much makes fun of the Disney way of thinking about love. But. It. Works.

Here’s why:

Disney took itself seriously, as did every single actor and actress that worked on this movie. You can tell that although they are making fun of Disney EVERYTHING (songs, falling in love at first sight, true loves kiss, etc) they also LOVE these things.

And that, my friends, is why this works as a perfect parody. It’s the same reason Mel Brooks Parodies are good, and all those “not another [insert type of movie here]” movies are horrible. Mel loves his source material. To truly do a good parody, you need to also love the thing you are making fun of. Everything has something “wrong” with it if you look close enough. parodies are meant to poke fun of these things. But with love.

Another reason this movie works is the actors. Amy Adams in the multiple years after this movie has come out has established herself as an A-list actor, appearing in a huge range of films and having an oscar nomination out of it. But back in 2007, I knew her as “that girl that had that small part in Catch me if you Can.”

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Yeah… that’s really her.

Amy Adams OWNS Giselle. She is essentially playing a Disney princess who gets disillusioned by real life. But instead of being depressed about everything that isn’t the way she thinks it should be, she instead takes the differences of the real world and tries to impress upon Robert that you can act crazy and romantic and it will work. That women like that (clue to guys: they really do!!). She injects a little bit of Disney simple life into the real world in the same way that he injects some real world onto her. As the movie progresses she becomes much more realistic but still holds onto that bubbly personality that believes in true love and happy endings and that singing will make you happy. She has this child-like Naivety that I think we all wish we had.**

I would also like to give a shout out to the costume and hair people who did an amazing job helping Giselle make this transition from “cartoon” to “more realistic.” I mean, they took her from this:

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To this:

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Kudos. This helps mirror her inner changes 🙂

On the flip side we have Robert. He is an “actual” adult. He has a job, responsibilities, is working on keeping a relationship afloat, and has been left by his wife and forced to become a single parent to his daughter, who he is trying to teach can be anything and can be confident and powerful.

You could argue that Robert teaching his daughter to be confident and that she can be anything is almost negated by the fact that a “princess” shows up and plays into all of her fantasies, but I think that’s almost the point of this movie. Confidence comes in a lot of different ways. You just have to be confident in yourself and what you believe. And Giselle is. She doesn’t care she’s walking around New York City in a dress made from curtains. She isn’t embarrassed to start singing in the middle of central park. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks because she is confident.

On the other hand, Robert acts how many of us would act given the circumstance. He doesn’t want to help her. He wants her to only stay a night then leave. You can almost sense that he thinks this woman is on drugs (he does tell his daughter Morgan to sleep in his room that night). He is a down to earth, serious adult.

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How most of us would react if someone randomly starting singing in the middle of Central Park

In the same way that he changes her and makes her become more realistic (all while maintaining really who she is deep down), she changes him to see some of the “magic” and “fun” that can be had, even as an adult. This is the best message in this movie. Adults, sometimes it’s ok to be silly, sing at the top of your lungs, and believe in fairy tales and true love. It’s ok to let your kids be kids and love Princesses. There will be plenty of time to teach them about empowered women, but what exactly is “empowerment”? Like I said before, as long as someone is confident, I don’t see the difference.

Our side characters are a bit hit or miss for me honestly. James Marsden plays Edward, and you can tell he is having a blast with this role. He’s crazy and over the top. He’s really stuck in Andalasia and unlike Giselle has no want or ability to change. But man is he fun to watch. Same goes for our little animal sidekick (who doesn’t talk during the majority of the movie but is fun to watch all the same)

The same goes for Nancy, Robert’s Fiance (Idina Menzel). First of all, I love Idina, but she plays this part kinda wooden. Maybe that’s the point. But she’s a woman who wants all this fairy tale stuff and isn’t getting it with Robert. by the end of the movie she’s better suited for life in Andalasia, and that’s where she goes, to live out her fantasy and live Happily ever after.

Our villains Narissa and Nathaniel are complete Disney Tropes, but again, you can tell that  Susan Sarandon and Timothy Spall (who is typecast here as he always seems to be) are having a blast in their rolls. I was a bit disappointed that they couldn’t think of a villain more original than a wicked witch/Maleficent hybrid, but eh. I will say, however, that I kinda loved it that they gave Nathaniel a bit of motivation for always doing Narissa’s bidding. I also loved that he realized as the movie went on that he was being used and the relationship wasn’t exactly “healthy.” It’s an interesting way to go in delving into the motivation behind why bad henchmen follow the bad guy, and although I could take or leave Nathaniel’s character, I enjoyed that aspect of it.

The songs in this movie are almost, again, “typical” Disney songs, but they are enjoyable. I like to think that this movie, not The Princess and the Frog, was actually the one to herald back the era of Disney musicals that I missed oh so much. The songs do what they’re supposed to do, and are a bit forgettable to be honest. Although I have a personal affinity towards “so close” (the “single” – totally not a disney song…) and “That’s how you know.” That song is just so freaking adorable, and we’d all act completely like Robert in that song…

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The “I’m doing it because you’re making me” look

All in all, Enchanted (2007) is an enjoyable Parody that exists on its own as a relatively enjoyable, albeit campy movie. If you try to think too much while you’re watching it, it won’t be enjoyable. So just get yourself to believe in fairy tales for an hour and a half, and you won’t be disappointed.

I give Enchanted (2007) a 3.7 out of 5

**I totally have a friend like Giselle. I love her to death because through everything she hasn’t given up on anything. She reminds me to stay happy no matter what. We all need a friend like that and I think this is most of the reason I love this movie…

Up Next: Zootopia (2016) BC I can.

 

Underrated Disney Movies

I love me my underrated Disney movies. In some ways, a lot of these have found their way to the top of my personal list. But I guess before I delve into my list of underrated Disney movies, what exactly constitutes one?

Well first off, an underrated movie doesn’t make the entire world go see it. You won’t see any Frozen or Lion King on this list. These are movies that are extremely good but maybe didn’t do too well at the Box office. They might have still made a profit (or maybe they didn’t). These are movies that have gotten pushed to the wayside for differing reasons. They’re the movies that when you say them, people go “wait, what movie now? Disney did that?” or maybe people know about them, but thought they’d be bad, so they never went to go see them.

These are movies that I think are gems. They are movies that might teach a unique lesson. I actually LIKE the fact that half of these movies never garnered a huge audience and got hugely popular. These movies I think are deeper than your typical Disney flare: they have something about them that makes them incredibly special that maybe not everyone saw.

Some of these movies were easy to come up with, and others weren’t. t do have to say that a lot of these are prone to ME thinking they’re underrated. Especially the newer ones on the list. It’s possible I didn’t see them as popular as they really were at the time. Some of the newer ones are ones I believe will possibly fall to the wayside in years to come. If they have a question mark (?) by their entry, I was hesitant in adding them but will try my hardest to explain why I think they are underrated.

You will also notice this is not a “Disney movies people forget exist” list. I didn’t include The rescuers, Oliver & Co, or even The Sword and the Stone. While these are good movies, they don’t have that special something that I think these other movies have.

These are in chronological order…. not in any other type of order…

Let’s go!

1. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

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I think everyone in the world should watch this movie right now. It teaches tolerance in a way kids can understand. It’s from Disney’s “Dark Ages” but it really is a gem. It preaches its lesson by not preaching, but instead getting viewers to fall in love with two adorable characters and then watch them grow up and we see the first hand effect on what cultural norms can do to change a person (or in this case, animal). It has some incredibly memorable moments, action, adventure, and laughs. I’m not going to justify why this is underrated. It just is because movies that can teach the lesson that it does in the way that it does are few and far between. And I bet the only people who really love this movie and know about it nowadays are the people who were a) kids when it came out, or b) kids when it came out on VHS for the first time. I’m the latter.

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

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My personal favorite Disney movie is also one that people (and the studio – where’s my blu-ray diamond edition special release??) not only forget about, but don’t seem to want to watch. It’s “too dark” or “too adult” for kids. I’m sorry, but this movie came out when I was a kid (11 years old to be exact), and I’m here to tell you it has always been a favorite of mine. It takes a hard story and makes it reachable for kids to understand. It takes incredibly complex ideas such as hatred and damnation and lusts and intolerance and somehow spells it out so that kids understand. It doesn’t patronize them. Instead, it admits that kids CAN understand this stuff, and should. It treats its viewers like adults. It has amazing music, animation, and characters that are some of the best (minus the gargoyles…).

3. Treasure Planet (2002)

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You can blame the advertising and styling for this one. No one saw it because it was “different” for Disney. And it is, and you know what, I think you do have to just kinda go with the flow a bit with this movie and say “ok, that’s an anthropomorphic cat-human-thing.” But this movie is superb and way underrated because it’s a) the best adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and b) We get some of the best relationships in a disney movie EVER in this one between Jim and Silver. Plus, it’s a Disney movie where the bad guy turns out good(ish). Whether you like it or not is up to you, but it’s on my list because I would watch it over and over just to see the characters.

4. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

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Ok, this might be my first stretch. Because I know there was a TV show and direct to movie sequels, but I still didn’t feel like people went to see this movie. I feel like no one ever talks about it except to say how cute Stitch is. If that’s all they took away from this movie, those people need to watch it again. I was in High school when this came out, so maybe that’s why I get the feeling this wasn’t a huge movie for Disney. I wasn’t the age when all my friends might have been obsessed with it. (although I did have huge Disney fan friends…).

Again this movie suffered from what I’m going to call the “strangeness” factor. It has Aliens and Hawaii. Not typical fanfare for Disney. But this movie is SO much more. It’s about belonging and family and what constitutes a family and that family is important and you’d do anything for them. It’s letting kids know that ALL types of families are good, and we have almost REAL people and REAL situations (except the alien part). Sister trying to scramble and provide and grow up after parents die? Check. Messed up little girl suffering from something after her parents die? check. realistic sister relationship? check. This movie has so much heart. It just chose to explore it in a strange way.

5. Brother Bear (2003)

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I know a LOT of people that don’t like this movie, and i know I’m in the minority of people that actually might possibly call it a favorite. BUT… let me explain why it’s here on the list (it’s not because it’s strictly a favorite, I promise!!)

Yes, it’s a body swapping story. Yes, there are lessons that come along with that. Disney had never done an animated story like this before, and this one gets deeper than you think. Not only does our main character Kenai learn that bears aren’t the horrible monsters he thinks they are, but he learns that his past actions have affected someone he genuinely cares about. Coming to terms with that and telling the truth about it is why I have this on my underrated list. That’s deep for Disney. It’s about learning that what you used to believe actually hurt someone you love and dealing with the outcomes. You can’t take back your choices. You’re stuck with what you did and what you thought in the past. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change and be a better person (er, bear) and make up for in in the future.

6. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

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I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can’t…

If you had told me 10 years ago I was going to put this on this list I would have laughed at you. Because the trailer looked ridiculous. Because this movie seemed ridiculous. And in a lot of ways, it is. In a lot of ways, it’s messy, and weird, and disjointed. But if you look past all that and get to the heart of this movie, you’re left going “whoa.” I talk about it in my review, but the lesson in this movie of not dwelling on the past and to “keep moving forward” is unique in a Disney movie. That’s why it’s on this list. The idea is so great, and in some ways it’s done well. Lewis is great as is our villain (with regards to the lesson). They don’t bash it over people’s heads, but it’s not super subtle either. This movie COULD be better, but it’s underrated in my mind because I think this is a movie no one went to see. And they really should just give it a chance.

7. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

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Ok this one IS selfish. And it’s different than the others on here. But this movie SHOULD HAVE BEEN bigger than it was. It SHOULD HAVE BEEN Disney’s rise back into the Revival. Because it’s good. It has everything that is so “classic” Disney and so much more. It has an amazing protagonist. Great side characters. A good Villain. Good songs. But did it get much mention? no! Ugh. I wish this movie had done better. Because it’s awesome and does not deserve to get forgotten (which I feel like it already has!). It teaches that hard work and perseverance are good, and you need them to get ahead in life, but they aren’t everything. You need to strike a balance between work and play and love.

Rant over.

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I was going to add Tarzan (1999) and Mulan (1998), because I think they’ve fallen to the wayside now, but eh, I can’t bring myself to do it. I think they were somewhat popular when they came out. But I do think they are movies that everyone should see for differing reasons (see my reviews for more info)

So there you have it. 6 movies I think everyone who is a true Disney fan shouldn’t skip. Movies I think that deserve more credit than they got, even if just a little. Movies that make me think or might have a profound effect on a child’s thinking. Or an adult’s for that matter.

Next up: Enchanted, then on to Pixar!

 

Ranking my favorite Disney Songs

Alright y’all. I don’t know about you guys, but with the state of the country and the world today, I need an escape. What better way to do it than with Animation and Disney! Not just the movies, but how about the songs? humming your favorite tune has been known to lower stress. I know when I’m annoyed or having a bad or stressful day, music can definitely help.

Disney has ALWAYS been about the music. Although it occasionally goes through periods where they apparently think they’re “too good” for songs, the majority of Disney animated movies are known not only for their stories and characters, but their songs. That is why I am going to List my favorite Disney songs (I’m not limiting it to 10, because personally I think that would be impossible). These are sort of in order? It’s hard to do the higher up ones. At least the top 3 are probably right… Here we go!!

A Whole New World (Aladdin)

I WOULD have this further up on the list, except that every time I listen to it compared to the others it seems sort of… blah. There’s really nothing that sets it apart. But it is still a good song.

 

Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas)

As much as I really dislike what Disney did to this movie, this song is spectacular. the lyrics are thought-provoking, the animation is lovely, and it almost makes us forget we’re in a movie where they aged Pocahontas 10 years and made her fall in love with that white guy

 

Someday (Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Ok, I think I’m kinda cheating with this one and the next, but I don’t care. These are the songs that appear in the credits and are *not* sung by Disney characters. They were singles on the radio.

Someday is an All-4-One song, and if you don’t know who that is it means you’re too young and you should go educate yourself on awesome soul/R&B/whatever the heck they were – boy bands of the 90s. This song is still one of my favorites even 20 years later. It’s the “imagine” of the Disney world. Here, take a listen:

 

Little Wonders (Meet the Robinsons)

Little Wonders is a perfect song for a movie that is unique and underrated for Disney. Sung by Rob Thomas (who is a personal favorite of mine), this song perfectly sums up the feelings of our protagonist Lewis while at the same time somehow digging deep into each of us and touching each of us in the chest. We’ve felt this before, or might at some points in our life. It’s a song I still listen to constantly.

 

Best of Friends (The Fox & The Hound)

There’s nothing really special about this song. It just comes at a time in a movie when our two main characters meet and are playing and having fun. But at the same time it somehow epitomizes childhood. We don’t care who we play with when we’re really young, because we’re just having fun. It’s not until adults and the world “gets in the way” that our mindsets change. I’m starting to think everyone in the world should watch this movie right about now…

 

Why Should I Worry? (Oliver & Co)

This one is a bit of a personal favorite. There’s nothing amazing about this song. It’s not on top Disney song lists. But I love it because 1) It’s Billy Joel, 2) it’s rock, so it’s different than normal disney songs (seriously, you could see this playing on the radio in the 80s), and 3) it kinda sums up the character of Dodger perfectly.

 

Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)

I’ve talked about how much I love this movie. I’ve talked about how I love the atmosphere and what they did with the songs in this movie. To be honest I could pick any of the songs in this movie and throw them here. I love “Down in New Orleans” as well, but if I had to pick one this would be it. This is the classic “I want” song from Disney (on par with “Part of this world” and “When will my life begin?”), but I love this one more than those simply because it’s done in the jazz style, the animation goes back to the 20s posters, and it sums up our character of Tiana so well. She’s worked so hard. she IS almost there.

 

Kiss the Girl (The Little Mermaid)

I made a rule that I couldn’t put more than one song from a movie on here. It was a real toss up between this and “part of your world.” I’m still deciding if I picked the right one. But I love this song. Fun story: In college my friend found a techno version of this song. My life has never been the same since.

 

Let it Go (Frozen)

Yeah, go ahead and shoot me now. Any parents reading this are going “what? how can you stand that song anymore?” It’s true. Frozen is the movie that refused to die in our culture. For the 3rd year in a row, 3/4 of the trick-or-treaters that came to our door were dressed as Elsa. But you can’t ignore just HOW GOOD this song is. After a long hiatus of truly GOOD Disney songs, we finally got a ringer. I mean, the emotion, the words, the message. It’s all there. I love this song, and I’m not sorry.

 

Something There (Beauty and the Beast)

I know, I know. I should have picked the titular song. And I DO love that song. I actually almost picked “Gaston” simply because that song is hilarious. But if I really had to pick one from Beauty and the Beast (and I do because well, it’s Beauty and the Beast), it would have to be this one. They start to understand each other. Belle starts to see past the exterior, and the Beast allows himself to soften. I love the way this one plays out, and the way it sounds.

 

I Won’t Say I’m in Love (Hercules)

Again, I seriously could have picked any song from this movie, which is weird because I know a lot of people could take or leave them. I personally LOVE the music in this movie. If I listed ALL the Disney songs, the ones from Hercules would probably be in the top 20. They’re all just so peppy, zany, etc. But this is the one that I love the most. It’s the one I listen to on my iTunes over and over. And honestly I have no idea why. Maybe it doesn’t sound like any other Disney song. Maybe I like the vulnerability a seemingly tough character is showing.

 

I See the Light (Tangled)

Ok, I’m sort of cheating with this one too. Half of the reason I love this song is because of the animation during it. But it is a pretty good song. It’s our love song but it’s almost like that’s not the main focus. It’s about seeing that there’s more to life than each character previously thought. Plus, it’s pretty!!!

 

You’ll be in My Heart (Tarzan)

I could be cheating with this one too because although this song IS in the movie, I actually mean the one sung by Phil Collins during the credits. But I don’t care. This song is amazing. It perfectly sums up our movie. It’s beautiful when sung by Glenn Close (voice of Kala). It’s sweet and serene in the movie and during the credits has our typical Phil Collins flare. When my son was super young, I sung it to him to get him to sleep. This song has a lot of personal memories attached to it. A list without this song would be incomplete.

 

Circle of Life (The Lion King)

How could I not? I remember seeing this movie in the theater when I was 8 and even then knowing that I was already watching something special. This song is beautiful. It’s the perfect way to open this movie, and again, we have the entire idea of the movie in one song. This is the story about the life of this lion cub. It also has the distinction of setting the atmosphere in the movie, and transports us to Africa. It’s beautiful, it’s epic, and if you ever see the broadway show, it can make you downright cry.

For fun here’s the Broadway version. Revel in the Amazing-ness:

 

He’s a Tramp (Lady & The Tramp)

huh? I bet a lot of people are wondering where this one came from. To be honest, this is one that has only grown on me as I’ve gotten older. Part of that could be because I understand it now (this actually is an incredibly “grown up” song). But I love Peg’s voice, I love the style, I love the sad atmosphere of the pound. It’s a one of a kind Disney song.

 

Out There (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

This is already my favorite Disney movie. While it doesn’t have the majority of my favorite Disney songs, most of them in this movie are quite good (as I talked about in my review). I really SHOULD have put “heaven’s light/Hellfire” on here from a technical standpoint. That song is unbelievable. Or I should have put “The Bells of Notre Dame” on here, because of the musical and storytelling ability. Or even “God Help the Outcasts.” But this one is a bit more of a personal favorite. It’s another “I want” song, and it’s not only beautifully sung and written, it’s beautifully animated. It lets you see what our main character is really about, and it’s great.

 

I’ll Make a Man Out of You (Mulan)

There really was no question when I started making this list what would be number one. Which is kinda funny, because honestly I would have put my money one of the other songs on here myself. But the more I thought about it, this really is one of the BEST Disney songs out there. It’s a montage song, but it’s a well done montage song. It’s catchy and upbeat, Donny Osmond’s voice fits perfectly, and I DARE you not to sing along.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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In the midst of waiting for my baby to arrive (8 more weeks, yikes!) I have found it increasingly difficult to pull together the time to a) watch movies, and b) sit down long enough to write a review I’m actually proud of. We’ll see where this goes.

When I heard Disney had acquired Marvel, my heart sank a little. Not because I don’t like their movies. I actually enjoy their movies quite a lot (Age of Ulton? = awesome!). But no… my heart sank because I KNEW they were going to want the animation studios to do a superhero movie. And, well… I really didn’t know what to think about that. Disney animation and superheroes has never been done, and would it fit into the mold of Disney teaching kids valuable lessons? would it be too violent? would it not transcend into a higher state to be as good if not better than their other animated movies?

My husband and I saw it opening weekend, and, well, it was ok….. I wasn’t floored, I didn’t immediately love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It still made me cry (more than once) but it also had me wondering a lot of things. The most important being… is this movie really appropriate for kids? Would I want my 5-6 year old son going to see this movie? would he even understand it?

I’ll attempt to answer all my questions I’ve posed, but first I do want to give a brief history of the comic series that Lassiter chose for his movie franchise, which goes by the same name, Big Hero 6. In all the research I’ve done trying to figure out exactly what this comic series is about, I haven’t been able to find too much. It was a comic series that was created in 1998, set in Japan about a group of people assembled by the Japanese government to protect their country. Most are secret agents, samurai, or some type of mutant (they exist in the same world as the X-men).

Pretty much NOTHING in this film resembles the comic, except for some of the characters, their names, and (sort of) their abilities. And I’m not going to lie, I think this plays to the films strengths. Lassiter et al took the idea of Big Hero 6 and tinkered with it to make it into something they were proud of.

So what’s their versions origin story? I’ll give a quick recap:

Hiro Hamada is a 14 year old genius that’s already graduated and thinks that nothing is cooler than (ro)bot fighting, seeing as he has incredible intelligence that allows him to create these amazing robots that are undefeatable. His older brother, Tadashi, is just as smart and attempts to show Hiro another way to use his intelligence by showing him the university where he attends and just what’s going on.

Tadashi doesn't give a crap that Hiro would rather bot-fight

Tadashi doesn’t give a crap that Hiro would rather bot-fight

Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends who are all working on incredible feats of engineering and technology (I would explain them all but… yeah. I don’t remember the science terms they used in the movie). Hiro also meets Baymax, a healthcare companion robot that Tadashi has been working on. Upon seeing all these amazing things going on and meeting Professor Callaghan, Hiro decides to enter the school’s “science fair” to gain enrollment.

He creates these things called “microbots” – tiny robots that when linked can create any shape or arrangement imaginable, and are controlled by a person’s thought through a special band the person wears around his head.

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After being impressed, not only does Callaghan want him to enroll, but a man named Alastair Krei wants to buy them. Hiro declines the sale, and on their way out of the fair, a fire breaks out. Tadashi rushes in to save Professor Callaghan, but both perish in the fire, along with all but one of Hiro’s microbots. (time we cry #1 in this movie)

After weeks of mourning and deciding not to pursue enrollment at the university, Hiro accidentally hurts himself one day and activates Baymax, who was in his brother’s room. After some attitude from Hiro and naiveness from Baymax, Hiro convinces him that his microbot is trying to go somewhere, and follows it for Hiro, thinking it will help stabilize his mood swings.

The two follow it to an abandoned warehouse where he finds out that someone has made tub after tub of them. A man in a kabuki mask rises up and chases the two out of the warehouse. Realizing he has to do something, Hiro uploads a karate chip into Baymax, and the two hunt down the man in the Kabuki mask. While at the docks hunting him down, Tadashi’s friends from the lab (Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred) show up and he attacks all of them. They flee.

As much as I don't like this villain, I have to admit he looks awesome

As much as I don’t like this villain, I have to admit he looks awesome

Realizing they have to stop this man and take his nanobots back by stealing the mask (and Hiro believes this will avenge his brother’s death), the 6 of them become superheroes, using the tech they were working on in the lab to become “superhuman.” They track the guy to an island and discover old wreckage of a lab and old footage that show Krei and Callaghan using teleportation technology to send a pilot through that never came back. The man in the Kabuki mask arrives, and they engage, only to discover this man isn’t Krei (who they previously suspected), but Callaghan. Hiro becomes so enraged he takes out Baymax’s healthcare chip, leaving him with just the urge to kill.  But Honey reinstalls the chip, Callaghan runs off, and so does Hiro, enraged at his friends’ intervention.

Back at his home, Hiro tries to remove the chip again and go after Callaghan, but Baymax doesn’t let him. Instead, he shows him video of Tadashi during all his start up tests, and consoles Hiro, who eventually calms down and goes and apologizes to his friends, saying they still need to stop Callaghan. They figure out that the test pilot that disappeared during the teleport test was Callaghan’s daughter, Abigail, and that he means to seek revenge on Krei for losing her.

They assemble at Krei tech, where Callaghan is already there. After fighting for a while, the portal opens up and starts pulling everything into it, destabilizing. The team uses this to destroy all of Callaghan’s microbots and save Krei, but the portal won’t close. That’s when Baymax detects a life sign inside. He and Hiro go into the portal and find Abigail in her pod in hyper sleep. They attempt to reach the portal door, but Baymax’s thrusters fail, and he uses the last of his jet power in his glove to propel Abigail and Hiro to safety, leaving him stuck in the portal as it disengages (crying time #2).

Abigail is saved, Callaghan is arrested. Hiro enrolls at school and sets up in Tadashi’s old lab, still holding onto the rocket glove from Baymax. One day he opens it to find Baymax’s healthcare chip inside. He gets to work and soon builds another Baymax. (aww)

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As I mentioned, I wasn’t floored by this movie the first time I saw it. I knew it was good, but I didn’t think it was that good. I didn’t see a higher purpose. I couldn’t figure out what Disney was trying to teach us. All I saw were gadgets and robots and fighting…. the same thing that is in so many movies these days. To me, it felt like Superheroes, kids, and Disney didn’t fit. The only thing I came away thinking positively about the movie was “wow, they painted science nerds as really cool people! Maybe this will get more kids interested in pursuing science!” (which is a good thing to do!)

Well, and that Baymax was the best part of the movie.

Then I watched it a second time. And I don’t know what it was, but I caught something. I had an epiphany. This movie is all about how people handle grief. It’s about how you cope with the loss of a loved one, which is something REALLY hard to do in a movie… especially a kids movie. I don’t know that kids would really understand it, but this is a theme that Disney has never done before. It’s something you can only really pick up after watching it more than once, because you know after seeing it that Callaghan is the villain, and you understand his motives for plotting his revenge. You understand the anger behind both he and Hiro in wanting revenge for their loved ones loss. It’s incredibly well done in this movie, but it’s really something for adults or older kids to get. Which is fine! Unless a smaller child has been through this, they wouldn’t get it. They’d be the Baymax in all of this.

Let’s talk about Baymax for a second, because he plays into this whole idea of loss and grief right at its center. He’s meant to be a robot who can help care for those who are ailing. Mental instability is the same, if not more dangerous, than physical, and Baymax reads that, and spends the whole movie trying to “heal” Hiro. However he is an incredibly naive character who plays into Hiro’s ideas, seeing that getting ready to seek revenge actually does heighten his mood. To him, his treatment is working.

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And in ways, it does. Although Hiro IS getting revenge on the man who he deems responsible for his brother’s death, he also learns to confide in Baymax, and Baymax in return learns to love Hiro and care for him in a way that a healthcare companion probably shouldn’t. Baymax keeps Hiro in check. His moral code influences him in a positive way and even through the hard parts, helps Hiro get through the loss of his brother. But their relationship is more than that. Hiro also influences him. He becomes more than his healthcare chip and almost becomes a surrogate brother. Hiro makes Baymax more than just his programming, which is apparent when he (unknowingly) takes out his healthcare chip at the end and has it in his glove as he sends them through the portal. I don’t know. I’ve always assumed that means that last talk Baymax gave Hiro was WITHOUT his healthcare chip.

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We also have all our other secondary characters to help Hiro, although each of them is probably feeling the loss of their friend Tadashi as well. At one point Baymax contacts them, saying that it is important in times of grief to lean on friends and loved ones for support. That’s what GoGo, Wasabi, Honey, and Fred do the whole movie. They support Hiro, they realize that this man in the Kabuki mask could really be dangerous, and they help him because of that. Not because they are also seeking revenge. In fact, they’re the ones who stop it once it becomes clear this is what Hiro wanted.

Although they don’t get a ton of screen time and character development, they get enough. We learn enough about each of them to appreciate what they bring to the team and how they make themselves stand out. And I have to admit that how Hiro adapts each of their techs into workable “powers” is freaking awesome.

I mean - who wouldn't want to zip around on those???

I mean – who wouldn’t want to zip around on those???

Hiro himself is another really well developed main character as well. He has amazing depth, and they animated him in such a way that you actually do feel what he feels. He’s a great protagonist even as a kid, although he isn’t one of my favorites (although who knows. He grows on me each time I see the movie…).  I feel like he’s too selfish and doesn’t think about Baymax or the others and their safety until it’s too late because he’s trained only on getting revenge. I know everything he does in the movie is really influenced by the loss of his brother, so I guess I have to forgive him. It just bugs me.

I’m not going to talk a lot about the villain in Callaghan, or about Krei. Honestly, this is probably one of the places this film is lacking. Yeah, I liked how they had a red herring in Krei, and it was really well done. I also like how we figure out throughout the movie about Callaghan’s daughter and his motivation, but he never really seemed “evil” to me. He’s relatable, so I’ll give you that. But not too relatable. He doesn’t have a ton of screen time before his “death” so you don’t learn to care about this character. Yeah it’s sad he lost a daughter, I understand why he’s pissed, but dude – get over it. I think the only reason we even care about him is because Hiro’s going through the exact same thing. Every time I watch this movie I’m reminded Doc Oc in Spiderman 2. I feel like that villain in that movie is what Callaghan should have been. We cared about him. We cared at the end when he died, and were happy he got redemption. We don’t feel that at all in Callaghan. The only reason I feel sad for him at the end of the movie is because his daughter is rescued and he has to go to jail. See where your actions get you? You can’t see your daughter now!

Yeah that's right, you gotta watch her get loaded into the ambulance!

Yeah that’s right, you gotta watch her get loaded into the ambulance!

I do want to mention a few smaller aspects of this movie that I found interesting or really quite beautiful. The animation is top notch. Disney invented a setting in San Fransokyo and I believe they hit it on the nose. I’ve been to both cities (I LOVE both cities) and the animators did an extremely good job at making a futuristic city have elements of both. Really cool and really fun to have a movie set there.

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I do think this movie is too violent for small kids, but I have to admit they animate the violence extremely well. It’s interesting, isn’t over the top, and doesn’t last for huge amounts of time. It’s good!

So do Superheroes and Disney fit together? I still honestly don’t have an answer to this question. I will be excited if they make a second Big Hero 6, it’s true. They somehow managed to put a creative spin on something that could have just been another crazy marvel violence filled fighting fest. But they managed to put heart into their work, like Disney always does. It’s still weird to think of Disney making a superhero movie though…

I give Big Hero 6 (2014) a 3.9 out of 5. Decent story, decent characters. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Up Next: Get ready for tons of top 10 lists as I round out all my Disney reviews!

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can't...

I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can’t…

 

I want to start this review by talking about John Lasseter:

Animation GOD!!

Animation GOD!!

If you don’t know who that man is, you can’t call yourself a Disney/Pixar fan. You just can’t. As far as I’m concerned, this man is the animation GOD.

Why is he God? First of all, he’s pretty much responsible for directing Pixar’s first three movies, and now he acts as executive producer on literally EVERY SINGLE MOVIE DISNEY PUTS OUT (Disney animation as well as Pixar, with the exception being Cars 2).

In 2006 when Disney bought Pixar, Lasseter was named Chief creative officer. Suddenly, this guy was put in charge of not only Pixar, but Disney Animation as well.

BEST. CHOICE. EVER

I’m not saying that Disney animation had been in a lull. Ok, maybe the fact I’m not reviewing Chicken Little and Home on the Range means something (those are generally agreed upon as being the WORST Disney movies ever…), but I’ll be the first to admit the the age before Disney’s so called “revival” isn’t as bad as many people think.

Now why am I talking about Lasseter on a movie before the Disney Revival? Because this is the first movie he oversaw as part of his new assignment. And while this movie is super messy, it has things about it that you can just “tell” are him. Starting with this movie, Disney movies (to me at least) begin to feel a bit more “Pixar-ish.” The sad part is I can’t even explain what I mean….

(meanwhile, Pixar would be starting to go “downhill”… according to everyone but me. But we’ll get to that later…)

So! Meet the Robinsons. This crazy little movie is kind of in a league of its own. It’s not really like Hercules and Emperor’s new Groove, but I suppose I have to put it there…? It’s sort of by itself. Let’s dive in and see what I think of this one. I’m going to be brief with the synopsis, because I could explain it all day and you might still not understand it….

This movie centers around an orphan named Lewis. Lewis is a “special” kid – he’s insanely smart, loves inventing things (and often fails), and doesn’t understand why no one wants to adopt him. After believing no one will ever want him but his own birth mother (who dropped him off when he was a baby), he invents a machine for the science fair at school called the “memory scanner,” which scans your brain for a desired memory and displays it in picture form on a screen.

But things don’t go so well for Lewis at the science fair after he runs into a kid named Wilbur who says he’s a time cop from the future and is after a man in a bowler hat who stole a time machine. Lewis of course thinks he’s crazy, but we see the bowler hat guy and his hat, who he calls Doris (it’s actually DOR-15, and she’a robot) sabotage Lewis’s memory scanner. It blows up, causing Lewis to leave in a frustrated state.

Back at the orphanage, he meets Wilbur again, who has followed him. Wilbur tells him he has to go back and fix the memory scanner or the time stream will be ruined. Lewis thinks he’s crazy until he shows him his own time machine and takes him to the future, hoping that will make him realize he has to go back to the science fair.

But Lewis has other ideas. Now that there’s a time machine, he says the memory scanner is pointless. He can just use the time machine to go back and find his real mom. He messes around with the time machine and it breaks. Wilbur freaks out, saying his parents are going to kill him because he wasn’t supposed to take it. He’s not really a time cop but instead a kid who’s trying to make up for a mistake he’s done.

He and Lewis manage to get the time machine back to Wilbur’s house, where Wilbur makes lewis a deal: if he can fix it, Wilbur will take him back to see his mom. Lewis attempts with no avail. Wilbur heads off into his house and orders Lewis to stay there. Of course this doesn’t work, and Lewis manages to meet all of Wilbur’s family.

His mother Franny is super welcoming and has him stay for dinner, where Lewis is part of a sort of insane… thing. He attempts to fix an invention of theirs and fails (again). Ready to apologize and run out, he’s surprised when they all clap and tell him that failure is good.

Meanwhile, the bowler hat guy is back in the past trying to pass off the memory scanner as his own to change the future. When it doesn’t work, he and Doris work to kidnap Lewis to get him to fix the memory scanner so he can help them. There are a few mishaps at seizing the boy.

Some stuff happens, Lewis is asked to join the Robinson family (but can’t – according to Wilbur), the future manages to change (for the worse) and only Lewis can fix it.

I don’t want to give away a lot of the last part of the movie, because I think it has a lot of good twists and plot points. You don’t really see it coming, and I enjoyed watching it the first time because of this. I want to keep this review spoiler free.

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In a lot of ways, this movie is just one giant ridiculous mess. You spend half of the movie wondering if any of this craziness even has a point. I think that’s why a lot of people just write this movie off. Strictly put, I don’t think a lot of people “get” this movie.

Yes it is crazy. Yes it is ridiculous. There’s a good solid 20 minutes that just leave you scratching your head going “what?” There’s a giant squid as a butler. There are singing frogs. There’s a man who delivers pizza via space ship. There’s a meatball canon, and a guy who thinks his puppet wife is real (and somehow they managed to have kids…?).

Just… do yourself a favor when you watch this movie. Don’t get caught up in trying to rationalize all the weird. Just enjoy the ride. Because in the end, this is what all the weirdness boils down to:

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Right there. That last line. “They’re family.” The Robinsons are crazy and weird, but they are a family unit. A completely cohesive family unit. Nevermind that the movie literally has to take a break from the plot to explain how everyone is related to each other (culminating in that scene above), and never mind I still don’t really know if even I understand how everyone is related. Wilbur is the most normal of all of them, and he’s even a little bit bonkers and wacky. But no matter what, they’re still a family. They stick together no matter what. Even if a giant dinosaur is coming after them. They are a huge, crazy, insane family.

That’s right. This is another Disney movie that somehow manages to convey the importance of family. It’s imbedded in this movie so centrally because it’s the main want of our main character.

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I adore Lewis. I think he is a great, well developed protagonist. Ok yes he’s a typical trope of a nerdy smart kid, and he really looks the part. But let’s not think about his looks for a second. Let’s really dive into the psychy of this kid.

Lewis was dropped at an orphanage when he was a kid. He’s had a ton of adoption interviews, all of which have ended in heartache or disaster. This fact alone is what shapes this kid’s personality and character. He’s desperate for a family, so much so that he’s willing to invent a memory scanner to see the only person who at one time or another actually cared about him! He almost gives up on the past when Wilbur’s mom offers for him to be a Robinson, something that could have screwed with the space-time continuum. He’s a smart kid – he should have known that! But his desire to be loved, accepted, and part of a family overrode all rational thinking.

Another thing I think is interesting about Lewis is that BECAUSE all of his adoption interviews have failed, he believes that failure is the worst possible thing in the world. He’s used to his inventions failing and people getting mad at him. Only when he goes to the future and meets the Robinsons and “fails” does he realize that there can be another way to look at it. “From failing, you learn.”

This is an incredibly unique lesson for Disney to teach in a movie. It’s one I don’t think they’ve ever taught before, and believe it or not, it’s well done. Because we’ve all been that kid who gets pissed because we just can’t get it right. we’ve all apologized when something we did screwed up and hurt someone, physically or emotionally. It’s good for everyone to just remember that failing is just a part of life. Without failing, you don’t learn what’s wrong, and you don’t learn what to try next. By failing you can even create something you never set out to create.

The other message in this movie again is another unique one for Disney to explore, and it’s done actually pretty well and surprisingly subtly (for kids at least). It’s best illustrated again with the help of Tumblr:

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Now I know it’s just a silly mashup of Disney contradicting themselves, but it’s really not. That there is the man in the bowler hat, or (one of) our villains. He’s in the past telling Lewis’ roommate Goob how best to live his life. See, this is what the man in the bowler hat has done his whole life. He’s let his hatred fester and rot him deep down, and in the end it gets him nothing. He dwelled on a few random incidences that happened in the past, and it destroyed him. Only at the end of the movie when he let’s go and decides NOT to dwell on the past is he able to move past it.

DOR-15 is the same way. She was created to be a helping hand, but when Mr. Robinson decided it didn’t work and she was getting out of control, he shut her down. She (the hat) is taking this and running with it (although to be fair she’s just super evil… the man in the bowler hat is a better example of this lesson…)

Heck, they even illustrate this point with Lewis. He’s so set on finding his family in the past by visiting his mom that he refuses to think of what “could be.” He’s not willing to wait to see his life develop and get good. Instead, he pours himself into this invention to find something in the past that he probably can’t change. Dwelling on the past only ends in heartache and destroys your personality to open itself up to the possibilities.

It’s like Wilbur’s dad’s motto: Keep Moving Forward.

With all the amazing good things about this movie, I will say that it isn’t perfect by a long shot. It’s a mess. You can almost tell that someone came in a tweaked this movie to try and make it flow a bit more. LASSESTER! 60% of this movie was changed when he came in. You can tell, but it’s not without its flaws.

It’s hard to understand sometimes. It’s hard to follow others. Sometimes you don’t understand the purposes of our characters, and other than Lewis, Wilbur, the man in the Bowler Hat, DOR-15, and maybe Frannie and Bud (Wilbur’s mom and grandfather), you don’t know the other characters more than just as caricatures.

But at the same time… that’s ok. Because this movie IS itself a caricature. It’s a wacky crazy ridiculous movie that a lot of people will brush off because to them, it doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying it does. I’m not saying there aren’t ridiculous plot holes (because there are). I’m not saying they did time travel perfectly (because they didn’t…) but what I AM saying is that this movie TRIES. It tries to give us something we’ve never seen before. It tries to give us lessons we’ve never heard from Disney. GOOD lessons. It might take a few watches to really get it, but when you do, it just clicks, and you realize how smart this movie really is.

It’s hard to write this review without spoilers, but trust me, if you’ve never seen it, you’ll be glad I didn’t ruin it. The way this movie plays out is fun. It has twists and turns you might expect, and it has some you don’t. Just buckle yourself in for a wild, crazy ride.

And if you don’t at least tear up at the end when Rob Thomas’ “Little Wonders” song starts, you’re dead inside. Best. Song. EVER!

I give Meet the Robinsons (2007) a 3.4 out of 5.

(btw, it’s getting insanely hard to put these in a “my favorites” list….)

Up Next: Bolt (2008)

Brother Bear (2003)

 

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“Sure your mom didn’t ditch you, Ko-Duh?”

It’s fitting I’m starting this review now. I’m sitting in a Panera in Wooster, Ohio, in town for my college’s homecoming. Why’s that fitting? Well, I feel like Disney hit a giant void during my college years (2003-2007). Of the four movies that came out when I was in college, I only ended up ever seeing 2 of them. The other two I’d rather not talk about. I think a lot of people would rather not talk about them.

but it worked. I was too busy to even care about going to see movies, and stuck on a campus without a car meant that I couldn’t see them even if I wanted to. This movie, however, I got as soon as it came to DVD without even seeing it. I remember seeing the trailer for it and crying because of the message Disney was going to convey with this one.

A lot of people hate this movie. They pan it, saying it’s a retread, or that they’ve heard the story a million times, or that there’s nothing really special about it. I’ve determined that those people aren’t worth arguing with when it comes to this movie. I have my opinion, and they have theirs. I understand what they’re saying, but I don’t believe it and I don’t agree with them one bit.

What do I believe? This movie is a freaking underrated GEM in the Disney Canon. I LOVE this movie. I don’t care what people think or people say. I’m happy to admit it. I will defend this movie until the day I die. It is certainly not just a retreat. In fact, I hear people say that, and I legitimately wonder if they were watching the same movie I was.

I will explain the plot of this one, simply because I want to prove that it’s not just a retread:

We open in beautiful ice age Alaska or British Columbia or somewhere up there. We meet three Native inuit brothers: Sitka, Denahi, and Kenai. It’s the day of Kenai’s manhood ceremony, and he’s excited to get his totem from the shawoman of their village: It’s a small rock carved in the shape of an animal which is said to be the thing that will help guide him through his life. Wheras some people get an animal that signifies bravery, wisdom or guidance, Kenai receives the Bear of Love.

Upset at the result and believing that bears are beasts incapable of love, he and his brothers leave the ceremony to find that a bear has gotten into the fish they spent all day catching. Kenai goes after it. This leads to a stand off between the three brothers and the bear, and Sitka sacrifices himself, collapsing a glacier to keep the bear away from his brothers. Sitka dies and the bear runs off.

Wanting vengence, Kenai tracks the bear to the top of a mountain, where he fights and kills the bear. This is when the spirits come down in the form of the aurora borealis and transform Kenai into a bear. His brother Denahi, who had tracked Kenai to talk some sense into him, sees a bear walking away and torn clothes and assumes the bear destroyed his brother: now he’s out for vengeance.

Kenai awakens to the shawoman of his village telling him that this is a test: the spirits have something big planned for him, and if he wants to be human again he has to take it up with the spirit of Sitka at the mountain where the lights touch the earth. She mysteriously vanishes, leaving Kenai on his own with no idea where that mountain is.

It’s not long before he meets a pair of mooses, Rut and Tuke, who don’t believe he was a human. Kenai wanders off right into a bear trap, where a cub named Koda comes out, makes fun of him for not seeing the trap, and helps him out with the promise that Kenai will take him to the salmon run (he and his mom were separated and he knows she’ll meet him there).  Kenai does it simply because the mountain where the lights touch the earth is right next to it.

Koda gets Kenai out of the trap and soon Denahi shows up. Kenai is excited to see his brother, but of course Denahi doesn’t know Kenai is a bear and attempts to kill him. Koda and Kenai run to get rid of him, and Kenai deals with the fact that he was just attacked by his brother for seemingly no good reason.

The middle part of the movie is Kenai and Koda traveling to the salmon grounds, trying to lose Denahi and Kenai getting some lessons about perspective. He explains to Koda as they near the salmon grounds about how bears are killers, to which Koda doesn’t understand: Denahi attacked them. They get to the salmon grounds, which is surrounded by bears, and Kenai expects to be mauled, but instead learns that bears really aren’t the killers he thought they were.

The real kicker comes when Koda finally tells the story of when he and his mom were separated. *Spoilers ahead* Turns out the bear that Kenai killed was Koda’s mother. He runs off, Koda finds him, and Kenai has to come clean and tell Koda what happened. Koda (obviously) is upset and runs off. Thinking there’s nothing he can do, Kenai heads up the mountain, begging for Sitka and the spirits to change him back. Denahi shows up, still hell bent on revenge, and Koda does as well after realizing that he cares about Kenai. There’s a fight between the three, and as Denahi goes after Koda, Kenai intercepts them, willing to give his own life for the cubs. It is only then when the lights appear on the mountain and Kenai is changed back into a human.

Things are seemingly happy until Kenai explains to Sitka’s spirit that Koda needs him.  He has them change him back into a bear.

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ok – now you name me another Disney movie that teaches about perspective and walking in someone else’s shoes through transformation. What’s that, you can’t? That’s what I freaking thought. See? not a retread. Disney has does movies on seeing your enemies perspective (Pocahontas comes to mind) or transformations (Beauty and the Beast technically, Mulan you could argue too). But never have the two come together before.

To me, this movie felt like old school Disney Renaissance. It was hand drawn, had heart, had characters not insanely deep but easy to follow, sidekicks, talking animals, etc. It was a Disney movie that felt like it could have been based on a fairy tale. It felt like a kid movie (as opposed to marketed at teenagers…) that adults could still enjoy. I really really will never understand those critics.

This movie does have things wrong with it, but those things aren’t what the critics pointed out as this movies’s worst problems. I will get to those at the end, but right now, I want to defend my movie:

#1: This movie has a culture, belief systems, and a species spanning religion

This is what I love the most about this movie. The same thing that made The Lion King such a hit (in my opinion) is what makes me love this one. We have a group of ice age inuits who survive by believing very much in the power of nature, the connections they have with it, and the magic of the spirits. In this movie, the spirits take their shape as the beautiful Aurora Borealis, or as Koda calls it, “The night rainbow.”

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This could have been extremely corny. Spirits live in the lights in the sky. They’re responsible for the changes in the world, and when you die, the lights come down and suck you up. But it works in this movie because it takes everything seriously. I LOVE when movies take themselves seriously because it makes the audience take it seriously.

Another thing I love about the way they do this is that it’s one thing for a group of people to believe in something. It’s another for it to actually exist. In this movie, these beliefs are grounded. Magic and the unexplained actually exists in this movie, and we get to see its proof. Now you could argue that it takes a bit of the reality out of the movie. You don’t need proof in something to believe in it. That’s true. Every single religion is based on that idea. But at the same time, not every single person in Kenai’s tribe gets to witness these things. It’s just Tenana, the shawoman (which makes sense) and Kenai and Denahi at the end. They get to witness it because it’s part of their test. It’s “divine intervention” if you will. All the other people in the tribe have to take the words of those who have witnessed it that it’s true.

It’s also cool that this “religion” spans species. Koda knows exactly what the night rainbow is, that his grandparents are up there, and that they’re responsible for the changes in the world. It’s a small scene with him and Kenai, but it’s a powerful one, because Kenai’s in shock that he knows about the great spirits. it’s just another aspect of the movie that subtly points out that we’re all the same.

I also want to mention how much I love that even though Kenai’s brother dies, his “spirit” stays within the movie. His Totem was an eagle, and not only do you see Sitka portrayed as the spirit of an eagle (see above), but you also see an actual Bald Eagle floating around in the movie, guiding the two brothers to interact.

#2: This movie has a main character who is relatable and actually changes.

Kenai

Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) is not the most interesting major character. I’ll admit that. But he’s driven. He’s also a very good representation of kids his age (I’m going to guess late teens? I honestly have no idea, but he’s young, no older than mid-twenties…): He doesn’t really believe in anything his elders do. He’s embarrassed when love is his totem, because it’s not “manly” enough. He lives in the moment, and believes everything that he believes is right. He’s stubborn to the point that it’s dangerous.

This movie is a coming of age tale, but it’s one that’s unique for Disney because it tells the story of a man who becomes a man by learning how to love. I want more stories like this for little boys. Stories that show the repercussions of blind hatred and violence. Stories that teach that not all people that are different than you are evil. Stories that teach respect and value to this world we’ve been given. Stories that show that to be a man you don’t have to be violent or “manly.” That in fact it takes a true man to love another with all your heart.

Kenai learns this throughout the entire movie, but it’s never forced. He changes gradually through meeting characters and having experiences. It’s such a natural thing that by the end of the movie he’s almost unrecognizable. It’s extremely well done.

#3: This movie is unique in that we can relate with the villain – even if he’s not the best

 

They did an amazing job making him look insane...

They did an amazing job making him look insane…

There are actually a few villains in the movie, and it’s all about perspective. First, we have the giant bear that steals the fish in the beginning of the movie and Kenai eventually kills. To the humans, this is everything a giant monster and villain should be.

When Kenai gets turned into a bear, it’s suddenly his brother, Denahi, that’s after him. He can’t understand and even mentions “It’s not like him.” Koda just says “that’s what they do!” To Koda, Denahi is everything a giant monster and villain should be.

Denahi is not Disney’s best villain by far. But I would argue he’s the most relatable. For once, we have a straight picture and storyline of how the villain became the villain. He was pushed to do the unthinkable out of fear, anger, and vengeance. He’s not just out to ruin someone’s life because. In fact, he doesn’t even realize he’s ruining someone’s life, lest of all his brother’s. In fact, Denahi didn’t even want Kenai to go after the bear in the first place. He didn’t blame the bear for Sitka’s death. Kenai did. He understood that some things just happen. It’s only after seeing the clothes of Kenai that something inside him snaps. The same anger that raged within Kenai now filled him, turning him into the very “monster” he said didn’t exist.

This movie is as much about Denahi learning a lesson as it is Kenai. Denahi’s totem is wisdom. You could argue he becomes wise because of this ordeal. He learns that love is very powerful, and that perspective is everything.

#4: This movie has some unbelievably memorable scenes in it.

They could be entire scenes, or even just a few single lines. This movie has a bunch that have stuck with me. The best part is, they’re not “words of Wisdom” scenes that feel like they were just stuck in to show off their message. They were stuck in there to up the message, but it’s not forced. It’s real.

First we have the discussion that Koda and Kenai have about the “night rainbow.” This one is just a line, but I love it. Kenai tells Koda that he has a brother up there, and that he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for him. Koda asks his brother’s name, then turns to the sky and goes “Thanks Sitka. Without you, I would have never met Kenai!”

The second scene is when Kenai and Koda come upon a cave with drawings done by cave men, depicting mammoths, deer, etc. Kenai stops when he sees a scene of a ferocious bear being attacked by a hunter with a spear. He grows a confused, concerned face. Then Koda pops out from behind him and goes “Those monsters are really scary. Especially with those sticks.”

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The last one is the big “Bam!” in the story (*spoilers*) but it’s the one that really get me, and should. I think i like this one because it’s almost that moment that Kenai realizes something about himself. It’s the “No Way Out” scene. Koda has just told everyone the story about his mother on the glacier, and Kenai had to get out after realizing it was Koda’s mother he killed. Koda joins him in the middle of nowhere. Kenai has to break the news to Koda about his mother, but doesn’t know how to do it. So he starts by telling Koda he has a story to tell him.

“What kind of story?” Asks Koda.

“Well… It’s kind of about a man, and kind of about a bear. But mostly, it’s about a monster…”

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It’s then we get the song starting, and probably the best done scene in the movie if not any Disney movie ever. How do you explain you just killed someone’s mother? It’s a dark thing for Disney, and they do it incredibly well. Best use of a song, EVER. It’s a scene that will stick with you and make you tear up. I love it.

#5: This movie stresses the idea of family, relationships, and love.

I mentioned a few reviews ago how the 00s was a time in Disney’s Canon that they seemed to focus more on original ideas and the idea of family. You don’t really notice it a lot in these movies because most of the time they’re focusing on the idea of “what makes a family?” In the 00s, you have a lot of extended family, or friends as family. This movie is no different.

It’s called “brother bear” for a reason. That’s because at the heart of this movie is the relationship between Kenai and Koda. It’s also about the relationship Kenai has with Denahi and Sitka.

This movie teaches us all that love is important, and that it can happen between anyone. It teaches us that all love isn’t romantic: love between siblings or two unrelated individuals can sometimes be as strong if not stronger and move everlasting. It teaches us that love is putting someone else first, even if it means risking your own life. Love means putting aside your differences and understanding what the person (or in this case, bear) is going through and how they see the world.

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This movie teaches us that relationships are not always going to be perfect: brothers fight, bicker, quarrel, and may even try to kill each other. But in the end, they’re still your family, and you would do anything for them.

I'm not sorry for two Gifs in a row...

I’m not sorry for two Gifs in a row…

#6: This movie’s message about perspective is one of my favorites.

Remember my review for the Fox and the Hound? I heralded this movie for the way it dealt with such a grown up idea in such an amazing way. This movie, in a lot of ways, does the same thing.

We have this idea that villains and monsters are those that don’t see eye to eye with us. They’re things, people, cultures, and creatures that we don’t fully understand, so we label them as “evil.” What’s amazing is that even in our own lives, the social norms of those we live around almost determine what we view as “evil.” Someone can be afraid of spiders because their parents are. A whole culture can hate another because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s only when one person changes their minds that the whole culture can begin to move forward.

That’s what the message of this movie really is. We have two cultures: Bears and Humans. Both view each other as “evil” or “monsters” or “scary.” Why? because they don’t understand each other and that’s just the way that time has progressed. There’s always a hindrance that stops the understanding. In this case, it’s the actuality of not speaking the same language. (wouldn’t it be nice if things were that easy in real life?) Oh and look, once someone of one culture has to be reliant on an individual from the other culture, they begin to see eye to eye and realize that they have more in common than they thought.

Alright. Now here’s some problems that even I have with the movie:

#1: They could have done more with the culture.

There, I said it. I enjoy the culture part of this movie, but there could have been more. We know the other animals believe in the same thing, but we only get Koda explaining that. Why not the Mooses? or the other bears? Why couldn’t this carry throughout the movie about lessons the spirits teach us, as opposed to just that the spirits change things? That could have been a cool thing to add in. That Kenai isn’t the first one they’ve taught a lesson to.

#2: The characters aren’t that great

I will agree with this one. The characters ARE the weak point in this movie. I’ve already talked about some of them and will talk about others below, but this is a legit criticism. They’re nothing that special and this is not where the movie’s strengths are.

#3: Koda, Rut, and Tuke can get a bit annoying

I’m actually putting this one in here because I have heard it from other people. I don’t experience this myself, but I can see where everyone is coming from. So even though I’m putting this in my “problems” list, it’s not really for me. In fact this will probably turn into me justifying them.

A lot of people really dislike Koda. He’s an annoying kid that talks to much about nothing. He’s a smart alec. Then there’s Rut and Tuk. They’re a bit pointless in some ways, and you could argue they’re just there for comedy.

I do agree with both of these points, and they are both incredibly right. We all know I hate most Disney little kids. Mowgli annoys me, and even Simba bugs me with his smug attitude. But for some reason, Koda doesn’t. wanna know why? He’s realistic. Not that the other two aren’t, but Koda seems more like a kid I would actually know. In fact, I do know kids like him. kids that won’t shut up and like to tell pointless stories but really are sweet at heart and don’t realize how annoying they are. They just like to share things with you.

I'm pretty sure I see both of these looks on parents and kids alike...

I’m pretty sure I see both of these looks on parents and kids alike…

Rut and Tuke to me are hit or miss, so I am more likely to agree that they are annoying than with Koda. They’re voiced by the Canadian comedy duo of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, and I kinda like the (stereotypical?) “eh”‘s and the Candian accents they give their characters. They do play into the story a bit, and they almost represent an intact brother duo to help Koda later in the movie. They serve their purpose, and some of their lines are funny. (Why don’t we get a back seat or something? It looks like you hunted me!)

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#3: The songs don’t fit in to the storyline, and most aren’t needed.

I actually love these songs, but they’re fluff, for the most part. They don’t fit in to the movie, they don’t really convey emotions or move the story along in the way that, say, Beauty and the Beast’s songs do. That’s a shame, because it’s the ever talented Phil Collins back again! I think the problem with him doing this movie was that he tried to do it like Tarzan. But Tarzan had a lot of time passing, and needed songs in the background to be good for montages. Brother Bear doesn’t need that. In fact, the one song it needed as a montage song (On my way) is probably my least favorite song. It’s about nothing!

Now to be fair, some of the songs are done very well, and I do like the fact that Phil doesn’t sing all the songs like he did in Tarzan. “Great Spirits” is a good song that fits in well to the beginning of the movie, and is sung by  Tina Turner. The song “Transformation” is unique because it’s in another language, and it fits in, although I don’t know if it was entirely needed. Same with the song “Welcome,” although that one does convey a sense of Kenai’s emotion. Just a little bit…

Then there’s “No Way Out,” which upon initial viewing of this movie was my least favorite song. Now it’s my favorite, because it’s the only one that should actually be in the movie. It conveys emotion, it’s worked into the scene incredibly well (see my #4 above for more on that) and it’s perfect.

And I’m sad Denahi didn’t get a song. Not really, cause that would have NOT fit in. Just because of who voiced him… (Jason Raize (RIP): The original Simba on Broadway! He had an AMAZING voice. If you don’t believe me, Google “Endless night.” UNBELIEVABLE!)

As you can see, I have a lot more “likes” about this movie than “dislikes,” and I even cheated with my dislikes. The truth of the matter is, I love this movie. It’s hard for me to find things wrong with it. That being said, I really do understand why a lot of people don’t like it. I can see it being that type of movie. As for a retread? Yes, it has things similar to other Disney movies. I compared it to a lot of them in my review: Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Fox and the Hound. But it’s got components of these movie. It isn’t these movies. It’s its own thing. And I hope, if anything, I’ve shown you all that.

Give it a watch if you’ve never seen it. If you have a son, show it to him. We need more movies like this.

I’m going to give Brother Bear (2003) a 3.7. I know that’s higher than a lot of people would put it, but I don’t care. It has too many good things going for it to put it lower.

Up Next: Brother Bear 2 (2006)