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Walt Disney Studios transported its viewers back to 1991 with its release of the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast on Friday, March 17, ushering in a new era of Disney nostalgia.
The film, pulling directly from the original animation, tells the story of the bookish Belle (Emma Watson) who saves her father’s life by taking his place as the prisoner of former prince (Dan Stevens) cursed with a beastly appearance. To return the Beast and a host of cavorting characters in the form of the candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), the clock Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen), the teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), and more to human form, both the former prince and Belle must find true love while fending of the boorish Gaston (Luke Evans) and a mob of angry villagers.
The remake sticks closely to the original storyline, adding embellishments on Belle’s mother and Gaston’s backstory that allow viewers to find excitement in further development of a childhood story.
Disney also strives to connect this adaptation with both history and the present, creating by far the most compelling addition. The Beast’s castle clearly resembles the palace of Versailles, and the costume and makeup sense reflect royal fervor, linking him to famed French monarch Louis XIV. Belle’s provincial life and the slight look at eighteenth century Paris also provide glimpses into the real history behind the story.
Still, Beauty and the Beast does not stop at brief allusions to history; the movie cautions the current age. The ideas of mob mentality — the film’s “The Mob Song” includes the noteworthy line, “We don’t like what we don’t understand and in fact it scares us” -- as shown through the town’s angry assault on the Beast’s castle, and the folly of judging a book by its cover represent morals that still have a place in today’s dialogue. Furthermore, by including a racially diverse cast, a bisexual character, and a major show of female empowerment, Disney hearkens to a new generation of societal values without getting left behind in 1991.
Even Evans’ Gaston acts as a clear warning for a new generation of girls: he mirrors the downfall of patriarchal expectations and represents all aspects of an abusive relationship, from gaslighting to psychotic tendencies. The casting for the brute makes the moral that much more obvious, with Evans boasting not only a stellar voice but also an impressive ability to convince the audience of his malice.
Disney also relies on a star-studded supporting cast to round the film out. McGregor’s Lumière lights up the theater, providing a rousing rendition of the famous “Be Our Guest” and one of the only French accents in the movie — ah, the common downfall of English-speaking French films. McKellen and McGregor work well as the film’s metaphorical Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, driving the plot and the comedy along with perfect timing. Furthermore, Disney hit the jackpot with Thompson’s Mrs. Potts; from sassy comments to the motherly love of the titular song, Thompson fits the musical landscape to a tee.
Stevens and Watson make a near-perfect Beast and Belle, as well. Though Stevens feels disjointed from his Beast, as for the majority of the movie digitized hair hides his face, his acting chops impress nonetheless, and the character arc comes across clearly. Watson looks like a dream as the headstrong Belle and meets the high acting expectations placed upon her, though she falters slightly in vocal ability as her songs sound canned at times. Nevertheless, the dynamic between the two draws laughter, sadness, and love that captures the essence of one of Disney’s most classic tales.
Disney legend Alan Menken modernized the classic score with fresh verses and songs galore. The opening song “Belle” received an update through added dialogue, and Gaston’s self-titled number also benefits from numerous new verses and a dance break. The gorgeous “Days in the Sun” and “How Does a Moment Last Forever” add to the emotional backstories of each character, giving them life beyond the screen. Furthermore, Menken finally gives the Beast a dramatic tune of his own in “Evermore.” The new music advances the storyline swiftly and allows the audience further insight into each compelling character.
Beyond the story and casting, Disney’s visual prowess comes across as usual. Each setting, from the provincial town to the towering chateau, acts as eye candy for viewers of any age, added to by the larger-than-life costumes and makeup. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran mirrors each costume from the original film, adding updates and embellishments, while the makeup adds to the grandness of the tale. The visual effects used to transform Stevens into the titular Beast represent the highest quality of computer-generated design available, showing how much technology has changed since the debut of the original film. Only Disney could pull off such skilled grandeur with ease.
Walt Disney succeeded in revamping one of their most famous films with only slight hiccups, proving that Beauty and the Beast will forever be a tale as old as time.
Kat's Grade: A-
Hello my lovely readers! So last Wednesday I got to go see Moana (the day it came out) and I absolutely adored the movie. I wrote a review for The Chant, and thought I would post it here as well. It's a bit more professional-sounding than most of the movie review I do just for this column, and I finally got around to posting it a bit late, but whatever. Enjoy!
Walt Disney Animation Studios released its newest animated film Moana on November 23, chronicling a 16-year-old Pacific Islander girl who sets out on an ocean adventure to save her village. The film reflects Disney’s neverending expertise in the area of animation, coupled with beautiful music and casting as a testament to Oceanic culture.
Moana opens with the mischievous demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who steals the heart of the goddess of creation, Te Fiti, but finds himself quickly overpowered by the demon Te Kā who loses the heart in the ocean. It later finds a young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the island chief, who longs to explore the sea but feels a responsibility to her people. When the stolen heart begins to destroy the island, Moana must track down Maui and travel back to Te Fiti to return it to its rightful place.
The story links basic Disney qualities with South Pacific mythology so successfully that it keeps all audiences interested. With a heavy dose of the culture of Moana’s fictional island of Motunui, the story reflects traditional Polynesian storytelling practices and beliefs: the fire demon Te Kā resembles the Hawaiian Pele, the ocean acts as its own character with a distinct personality to reflect traditional personification, and Maui comes directly from Hawaiian mythology. Furthermore, directors John Musker and Ron Clements made multiple trips to South Pacific islands to accurately showcase the often-misrepresented culture, speaking to Pacific Islander professionals from archaeologists and historians to elders and tattoo artists. The testaments to South Pacific culture make the film shine beyond the storyline and showcase Disney’s capacity for innovative storytelling and Musker and Clements’ passion for bringing accurate and inspiring tales to their viewers.
Moana does find itself stuck in a bit of predictability reflective of the earlier films The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo, but for the next generation’s children, the film acts as their first venture into the Disney storyline, so I can ignore the somewhat-pretentious complaint.
Disney’s Moana found its perfect star in sixteen-year-old Cravalho, a Hawaiian native who plays the title character with a natural gusto. Blessed with the ability to sing as well as act, Cravalho creates an enticing character torn between her love of adventure and the traditions of her people with such believability that it feels as if Cravalho herself is Moana; her personal experience growing up on stories of Maui and Polynesian culture add endearing charm.
Johnson plays the demi-god Maui with a perfect mix of humor, vulnerability, and faith in tradition. He successfully pulls off the well-known change from egotistical to wise without losing the audience’s interest in the character and the original mythology.
As one of the first companies to experiment with animation of all types, Disney’s legacy lives on through Moana. The film mixes 2D and 3D animation, highlighting the former to tell traditional tales. Filled with shots of the island Motunui and the ocean, the animation provides shockingly beautiful images with impressive clarity and realisticness. From literal tons of water to Moana’s complex and curly hair, almost no part of Moana called for easy animation and the complete detail to which Disney created each character reflects the almost five years spent working on the movie.
Furthermore, Moana pulls off its storytelling with a boost from the soundtrack, which includes twelve songs sung during the movie à la Beauty and the Beast or Mulan. Featuring songs written by the creator of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Oceanic songwriter Opetaia Foa’i and composer Mark Mancina, each song adds to the culture of the movie and moves the plot and character motivations forward.
The powerful “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana’s “Reflection”-esque solo, showcases Cravalho’s beautiful voice, and multiple reprises, including the breathtaking spinoff “I Am Moana,” reflect the character’s battle between duty to her people and her love for the sea. The upbeat song for Maui, “You’re Welcome,” adds in an extra layer of humor as the demi-god gloats about all of his accomplishments. Furthermore, the gorgeous “We Know the Way,” which acts as the theme song of Motunui and swells with a chorus in the Tokelauan language, showcases Foa’i and Miranda’s craft.
Moana’s only fault, other than its predictability, lies in a disjointed middle. Moana and Maui’s fight with the huge crab Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) feels out of place, and the monster’s main song, a David Bowie-esque tune written by Miranda called “Shiny,” messes with the entire tone of the film. In any other context, I may have enjoyed the song, but the battle itself felt rushed and without enough backstory to truly fit into the movie’s tapestry.
Still, Disney’s Moana triumphs with original characters, testaments to Polynesian culture, and breathtaking animation. Even by falling prey to the Disney boilerplate, Clements and Muskers’ piece matters less for its story and more for its beautiful and accurate representation of a culture unknown to many.
Hello and welcome back to Lake Buena Vista's Holiday Week! For Christmas Eve, what better than a retelling of The Night(mare) Before Christmas?
Disclaimer: I have seen this movie probably twenty times, and I absolutely adore it. Nevertheless, for young kids it's watchability (I might have made this word up) should be left up to the parents. It is Halloween-themed and pretty spooky at parts, so beware.
The Nightmare Before Christmas retells the famous story but from an interesting perspective: the king of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington. Skellington reigns over the entire holiday of Halloween, with the rest of the spooky town of clowns, ghosts, witches, and more. When Skellington gets a little lost on a walk, he stumbles upon the town of Christmas and becomes infatuated with the idea, wanting to take over the holiday for himself. With the caution of love interest Sally and the villainy of Oogie Boogie, Skellington learns about his true place and the world's need for Santa on Christmas.
Written by Tim Burton, who penned other masterpieces like Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas shines with gothic flair. Chock full of witty lines and interesting moral questions, the plot is likable and eclectic.
Nightmare's animation style, with stop-motion animation reigning, gives it even more of an unique vibe.
Overall, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great film to watch on both Halloween and Christmas! The entire aesthetic of the movie is a little indie, but everyone can enjoy it if they give it a chance.
"My dearest friend, if you don't mind... I'd like to join you by your side. Where we can gaze into the stars, and sit together, now and forever. For it is plain, as anyone can see. We're simply meant to be."
Hey guys! Sorry about the delay on posts, but as you all may know, I am super busy always. Anyway, as a little bit of therapy last night, I scrolled through Netflix's Disney tab and found a movie that I hadn't seen since I was about six years old: The Aristocats! Honestly, I had forgotten what it was about (other than the obvious) so watching it was like a completely new experience.
The Aristocats hit theaters in 1970 with colorful 2D animation. The story features a family of four rich cats who's owner gives her estate to her cats in the will, and the butler's dastardly plan to get rid of the cats so he can have the money to himself. A rough alley cat helps to save the day with his band of Scat Cats, as well as one posh mouse and a sassy horse.
The story is adorable, and the romance between the mother cat Duchess and the alley cat Thomas O'Malley is charming and refreshing. The three kittens, Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz, are great for comic relief and add to the movie's charming air. While the film is short and to the point, it does not fail to impress.
As for the animation, each scene was hand-drawn, which is ridiculously impressive. The colors are bright and the scenes of Paris are gorgeous. The soundtrack adds to the aura of the movie, with lots of French influences. Featured songs include the jazzy "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" and "Thomas O'Malley Cat", the latter of which introduces the main love interest with charm and expertise. The main title "The Aristocats" blends Maurice Chevalier's French flair with an upbeat musical track. Still, downright the cutest is "Scales and Arpeggios", sung by the three kittens and Duchess.
Overall, The Aristocats is classic Disney that, even though it is in a different ball game from what they out out today, still continues to charm and impress.
10) Pacha’s kids are so cuteeeeee. (Extra e's optional).
11) Patrick Warburton has a history of talking to squirrels doesn't he?
12) There's a surprising lack of sweet Disney moments in this movie.
13) ALL OF THE DISNEY BONDING MOMENTS.
14) I love that his kids had rehearsed how to get rid of people. #parentinggoals
15) This scene is so good, I can't even pick out all of the indivudual awesome parts:
This movie is quoted all the time in my household! It’s full of hilarious lines and cute character developments that make it one of those underestimated Disney greats.
Warning: the list below is not going to make any sense if you haven't seen the movie. There may also be spoilers ahead. I'm sure in the future I will do a full review of The Emperor's New Groove, but until then, if you haven't seen it, don't click the read more. You have been warned!
Without further ado, my thoughts:
1) This really is most dramatic opening in all of Disney history.
2) “You threw off my groove!”
3) Kuzco is such a loveable jerk. I'm almost cheering on the villains (that haven't even entered the plot line yet).
The other day I watched The Incredibles for the first time in a long time; I had forgotten what a master piece this movie is.
The Incredibles tells the story of a family of superheroes who are trying to be normal after society scolds them for being super. The father of the family, Bob Parr (AKA Mr. Incredible), is addicted to undercover saving. His wife, Helen (AKA Elastigirl) has her hands full with their three children Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. When Mr Incredible, tempted by the chance to relive his glory days, finds himself in a situation that is too much for him to handle alone, the family comes together and learns that they are more than the sum of their parts.
My favorite part of the movie pertaining to the animation is the detail they put into some of the action scenes. Everything is moving quickly and it feels like the action sequences in this movie could stand up to those in any live-action movie.
The plot is completely family-centered and teaches an awesome lesson about being special. The main villain, Syndrome, has one fantastic line (which he technically shares with Dash), where he says, "And when everyone is special, no one will be." There are so many funny moments, including Syndrome's mention of villains monologuing, Edna's capes, Mr. craziness, and what may be the most famous scene from the movie: Frozone and his wife.
The Incredibles is a must-see for anyone who loves Disney and/or Superhero flicks and/or touching family movies. It's never too early to teach someone that they have the chance to be incredible.
Break is over, and with the little free time that I have, I have been slowly watching the 1940s Disney movie Victory Through Air Power. You can't buy this movie on iTunes, or in stores, so some sneaky YouTubing has been my only way of viewing the movie.
Overall, it's not only informative but hilarious. I enjoy seeing the reflections of 1940's culture in the movie, and of course, learning about aerial bombing. (If you haven't figured out, the latter of that sentence is sarcasm.)
If you ever decide you want to watch an odd Disney movie about World War Two, do a quick Google search for Victory Through Air Power.
This is the first in a series I will be doing, as I watch Disney movies (some for the first time, some for the fiftieth) and write a review at the end.
The movie starts and I am immediately smiling because the Walt Disney Animation Studios logo is in 64-bit.
Disney starts as usual by explaining the main character, Ralph, who is the bad guy in the old arcade game "Fix-It Felix Jr." Apparently this game likes hyphens. Ralph, voiced perfectly by John C. Reilly, explains in melancholy that he is never appreciated for his work. From there he goes on to try to achieve more than a "villain" has ever achieved, and meets new friends and new foes along the way.
My favourite part of this movie not relating to the plot is the arcade. The whole place, including many familiar characters, is shown, an each character is animated as if its a video game from the time period it came out. It is revealed that characters can leave their game by travelling through electric wires, and the main "game central station" is a power strip. That is brilliant.
My favorite part of the movie pertaining to the animation is how each video game character moves. The animators had to abandon all of their previous lessons to make the characters move so they looked like they were from video games from certain time periods. For example, each of the characters in Fix-It Felix, Jr. movies only on a square grid. I love to look at tidbits like this.
The plot is completely fantastic and heartwarming as always. The part that resonates the most with me is when Ralph goes to Bad-Anon. Those scenes make me laugh every time; I like seeing all of the familiar villains there and thinking about how we immediately assume they are bad people. Disney often does a great job of challenging how we think about ordinary things.
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the movie I am able to watch over and over again. It's funny, nostalgic, and charming, and teaches wonderful lessons about identity, fighting for what you want, and the importance of friends and family.
Kat Shambaugh: photographer, graphic designer, wannabe Disney princess. Computational Media major at the Georgia Institute of Technology.