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Breanna - a lifelong Disney fan - is a writer who lives on a cattle ranch in Alabama. She wants a t-shirt that says, "Where Were You When Mufasa Died?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fifty Movies, Four Weeks, Absolute Disney Devotion

     I love Disney. I really, truly, passionately do. It ranks up there on my list of favorite things along with Batman, manatees, Alton Brown, Hitchcock movies, and orange Sunkist. It seems that a bunch of other things that I love are connected to Disney in some way or another. My favorite comic book series (besides Batman) is X-Men, which is owned by Marvel, a company that now falls under the Disney banner. I love all things Jim Henson, especially the Muppets, who are managed by Disney. My favorite video game series of all time is Final Fantasy, which is a Square-Enix franchise, a company that collaborated with Disney Interactive to create the Kingdom Hearts series. This short list does indeed illustrate how far the Disney Company’s reach has extended since Walt Disney founded his first studio in 1923, but my love for Disney was not created by the offshoot projects that they became immersed in. My love for Disney came about from following the very heart of the company, namely the films they release and the theme parks they create.
     But not just any Disney movies or theme parks, mind you. I’m talking about the classic Disney animated films that began with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. On the theme park side, the very first theme park I ever visited as a kid living in California was Disneyland, but after my family made a move to Virginia, the theme park I grew up with and visited numerous times was Walt Disney World in Florida. It would be very hard for me to say which has had a bigger impact on my development from child to adolescent to young woman, and yes, both truly have been there through it all.
     Disney animated movies are the films I watch when I’m sad, sick, or just bored. When my sister (my partner in Disney crime) and I have a say on where we visit for our family vacation, more often than not, we find an excuse to go to Disney World. I worked at Disney World as a part of their college program at Splash Mountain; on almost all of my days off during the six months I worked there, I took advantage of my free park admission, and visited the parks. In 2009, I became a card-carrying charter member of D23, the official Disney fan club. I am sure to buy the new edition of the Birnbaum guidebook to Walt Disney World every year, and I have arguably the greatest collection of Disney music ever amassed onto one iTunes.
     You can wager that I have an impressive collection of Disney DVDs, and you’d be correct. I love to marathon things whether they’re TV shows or a certain series of films and I have long been dreaming of the chance to marathon the Disney animated classics but there has always been one wrench in the works. That wrench’s name is Fantasia. It’s the third Disney animated film and it’s also one of the most important, influential films that ever came out of Disney’s animation studio. It’s also the one Disney animated movie I don’t own on either blu-ray or DVD. I know, I know, a special edition of it and Fantasia 2000 came out on DVD a few years ago, but ever so frustratingly, I missed the chance to purchase it before it was placed back within the confines of the vault. So that one crucial piece of Disney history has been absent from my collection for a number of years, rendering me unable to complete a true Disney animated marathon.
     Until now. After purchasing the Diamond Edition blu-ray of Beauty and the Beast, I was delighted to discover an upcoming attractions pamphlet contained within the movie case. One of the upcoming releases is a special edition blu-ray of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 to be released on October 26th, 2010, roughly a month before the premiere of Disney’s fiftieth animated film, Tangled. It seems like the stars have truly aligned and it’s time for me to have the ultimate Disney animated classics marathon. From Snow White and on, culminating in watching Tangled on November 23rd. A perfect way to celebrate fifty animated classics, over seventy years of entertaining and enchanting countless generations of people, both the young and the young at heart, all over the world.
     My sister is in vet school in Australia so I had to tell her this marvelous idea over the phone. She was the one who said, “Why don’t you blog about it? You could be like the Julie/Julia project. But don’t just talk about the movies, talk about the theme parks too.” And here we are. I’ve never been one to blog; this is quite literally the first time I’ve ever opened a journal on a blogging website, but what better subject matter to write about than Disney? There has been a recent documentary released detailing the beginning of the Disney Renaissance of the late eighties/early nineties called Waking Sleeping Beauty. Catchy title, but Aurora was not the only princess caught sleeping for a good chunk of her film. Snow White was also trapped in endless sleep, with love’s first kiss as her only means of escape. Since this blog is essentially a love letter to the art of animation and Disney, both of which started with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it only makes sense to think of this project as a chance to give love and appreciation to the legacy of the one that started it all.
     But hopefully it’s going to be more than my thoughts, observations, and research as I watch Disney films through the years. As Walt Disney was famously quoted, “I hope we never lose sight of one thing – it all started with a mouse.” Mr. Disney recognized that little ideas, as small as a mouse, could grow and become generation defining moments in history. These animated films have touched multiple generations across the world, and the studio is fast approaching releasing its landmark fiftieth production. I say it’s time to celebrate this achievement by looking back at each film, observe what made each one unique and special, to share the thoughts and memories that these films invoke, and to simply give these films some love.
     My hope is that I can also include the scope beyond the films, the impact these films had on the Disney Company, the audiences that loved them, and the world they were born into. But before we dive in, I feel I should get a few things out of the way first. First of all, this marathon is only going to include films that fall under the canon of the Disney Animation Studio, so that means no live action films (like Pirates of the Caribbean) or live action films that happen to have animation in them (like Song of the South, Mary Poppins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit!, or Enchanted). This also excludes Pixar films (sorry Pixar fans, they deserve a blog of their own!), films released by the DisneyToon Studios (films like A Goofy Movie and The Nightmare Before Christmas regrettably fall into this category), and the films created by Studio Ghibli (which include Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro – these films definitely deserve a blog of their own!). Also, many people mistake several animated films as Disney films: the movies made by Don Bluth’s studio, which was responsible for Thumbelina and Anastasia, as well as other animated films like Fern-Gully, The Swan Princess, and Quest for Camelot. They are often confused for Disney films because they happen to be animated and they happen to include musical numbers. Though there are some real gems among these films, alas they will not be covered by this blog. By the way, the “cheapquels,” otherwise known as the direct to video releases of multiple Disney sequels, will most definitely not be a part of this viewing experience. For one thing, the quality wavers drastically for each of those films and I’ve never really viewed them as canon, so out they go. This leaves us with forty-nine films to view, review, and post about in roughly a month’s time before the release of Tangled, which will bring us up to a solid fifty.
     If you love Disney, read on for love’s sake. If you loved Disney as a child, but have not viewed the films in several years, read on and gain a newfound appreciation for them. If you love movies, read on and then go read about these films on IMDB. If you love theme parks, read on and then go visit Disney World or Disneyland, whichever one you’re closer to. But enough of the preamble; it’s time for this princess to wake up.

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