Well, we’re halfway into the first month of 2016, there are no unwatched movies in Disney’s animated canon, and it’s officially time to wrap up my Year in Disney Movies project — for now.
I write this post with a mixture of sadness and relief. Several people have asked me what my “next” movie blogging project will be. A couple people suggested Pixar, and another suggested (non-Disney) classic movies. My answer is: there is no next movie project.
As much as I’ve enjoyed this endeavor, I did not know when I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on January 1 of 2015 what a massive undertaking this would be. Something I envisioned as a sort of fun, side-blogging project ballooned into at least a 5-hour-a-week commitment (2 hours to watch the movie, 3 hours to prepare the post — and that’s not even counting time spent hunting down and reading source materials.) This project swallowed my writing time so that my fiction projects and other blogs got pushed aside. I posted to my writing blog only sporadically and resigned as a writer for the Young Adult Catholics blog. I took a pass on NaNoWriMo. And I wasn’t even doing everything I WANTED to for my Year in Disney Movies blog. I had ideas posting accompanying “reads” for each movie as well as reviews of the D2V sequels, but those ideas fell by the wayside within the first quarter of the project.
Still, I have now seen every single Disney movie that came out of its main animation studio. Not only that, I have read all the source materials (except for the Big Hero 6 comics because that movie caught me off guard). Even in the most unlikely weeks (on vacation, swamped at work, Christmas), I got my post up by week’s end (Saturday) so that I was free to sink into my next movie on Sunday. I was able to track down even the obscure titles thanks to a well-stocked library. (Support your local libraries, people!) I loved the conversations I had with people about the movies both online and IRL. Perhaps best of all, I had a legitimate “excuse” to deeply revisit the movies that informed my childhood as well as the ones I had “missed” as an adult. Sometimes, I felt like this year consisted of me reliving my childhood on fast-forward, as each movie would bring with it a slew of memories from when I first experienced it. (Middle school dances were SO disappointing after the ballroom scene in Beauty & the Beast!)
I also gained some insight into myself, including why Aladdin was such an important movie to me even though I don’t think it would be my favorite if I viewed it for the first time today. I also wondered whether my obsession with Disney movies as I was growing up lies beneath my inability to sit through movies more than two hours long as an adult, and my ineptitude at following movie plots that are even moderately complicated (particularly in sci-fi, even though it’s a genre I like). The plots in Disney movies are always so straightforward, even though I think it’s dismissive and incorrect to assume they are “simple” or (my pet peeve) “cute.”
My feelings vacillated between my old enchantment of Disney and a more grown-up resentment for the way it has infiltrated our cultural story. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would never deny a child the magic of the Disney canon (with the exception, perhaps, of Saludos Amigos.) I remain, at the end of the day (or year, or canon) a Disney fan who will almost always choose an animated classic over any other movie. I also think that much of the “flak” Disney gets is totally unfounded, and based on the Disney Princess line’s marketing machine rather than the source movies themselves (especially as relates to The Little Mermaid.)
Oh, and it should also be noted that 25/55 of Disney’s movies passed the Bechdel test, with the older ones faring just as well as the newer (Dumbo was the first movie to pass in 1941, Frozen the last in 2013). Since three movies were exempt for lack of dialogue, that means only 27 movies failed. Honestly, that’s better than I expected.
So, What’s Next?
With that in mind, I am leaving this blog “active” so that I can return here with future Disney-related thoughts, and I plan to continue reviewing the new animated movies as they are released. (When I found out two animated movies are coming out of the studio in 2016, I invested in the “refillable” popcorn bucket at my local theater!) So, I am officially returning to a habit I abandoned somewhere in the 2000s: I will see the new Disney animated releases even when they don’t particularly interest me so that I can keep my list “current.”
I’m also going to post a few top ten lists here, which I’ve been mentally compiling after watching all the movies in close succession with a mix of an adult’s sensibilities and a child’s devotion.
So, without further ado, here is my official “Top 10” list of my favorite Disney movies.
- Aladdin – While it’s true that this probably wouldn’t be my favorite Disney movie if I saw it for the first time today, I’m old and set in my ways, and it’s just too stressful to think of granting any other movie this place of honor. I’ve got years worth of time spent writing fan-fiction to justify!
- The Little Mermaid – No surprise to me that this one held steady at its #2 position. It was also the only movie I gave 5 stars out of the whole year.
- Frozen – I thought that my feelings about Frozen might just be about it being new and shiny and re-awakening all those old feelings of magic and devotion Disney used to inspire. But when I watched it again, it held its own against all the old and new faves. It’s the only movie that has come out since Aladdin that has actually awakened in me a desire to write fan-fiction again. I honestly will be surprised if Disney ever manages to top it.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame – This movie was just as daring and beautiful 19 years later as it was when it first shocked and entranced me at age 15. It’s the only movie for which I watched the full director’s commentary this year. I also could not stop talking about/thinking about it the week after I’d watched it. My husband said it “seemed like this was my new favorite.” It’s an old favorite, but did move one position “up” in its placement.
- Lilo & Stitch – At the beginning of this year, I didn’t even know this movie would MAKE my top 10. But along with Frozen, it’s the only other movie that gave me that “five-star” feeling of satisfaction as the end credits rolled.
- Beauty & the Beast – This is the movie that has fallen furthest from its previous place of honor in the top 3. While I still loved the beautiful animation and was not deterred by arguments that the Beast is an abuser, what DID turn me off was the way Belle’s interactions with both her father and Gaston were so “sweet” and flirty. For a heroine who is often referred to as Disney’s first “feminist” princess, I was frustrated that she prioritized being “nice” over being firm when it came to telling Gaston to bugger off.
- Lady & the Tramp – Although I rated this one lower than the three movies that will come after it, it remains my favorite movie from Walt Disney’s lifetime, and it has the “staying power” to rivet me every time I watch it — something that the movies lower on the list have never quite put to the test because I didn’t rewatch them as often as those higher up. It has a sort of restraint and maturity that sets it apart from the other movies of its era, and the other “animal” movies in general.
- Mulan – Another one of those movies that gets better with age. Whereas I used to drool over Shang, I can now see that Mulan is the real prize in this movie.
- Tarzan – SUCH a huge improvement over the source material, stunning animation, and, well, JANE.
- Atlantis: The Last Empire – Because if you lined all the Disney dudes up for me in a dating game, I would totally go home with Milo.