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Thank you very much to those of you who found us out here at our own site and joined us these past few months. Our readership has been growing and we're looking forward to bringing our explorations of the world beyond Disney to even more people. Please continue to join us over at our new home on the preeminent Disney fan site!
Thursday, 10 April 2014
Saturday, 5 April 2014
If you're used to popping into Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy on a regular basis, you might have noticed that we've fallen a bit silent. Well, just as ol' Bert noticed, the winds of change are blowing through. I can't say just yet what is happening, but it's a big move for us and you'll be the first to know when it does!
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Anything with the name Disney attached to it invites the image of the multimedia conglomerate with its chains of theme parks, cross-platform franchises and intermittently successful tentpole films. It is an industry, an empire in full expansion mode swallowing up every available license like a neighbouring Gallic province. As shareholders look to the bottom line of immediate returns and go about laying off its creative producers, it can be increasingly difficult to see Disney’s output as a work of art. There are even pressures within the Disney fan community to stifle you from looking at it in that way. Any artistic criticism - in the proper academic sense of the term as the rational evaluation of art - is frequently shouted down with endless thought-terminating clichés like “Disneyland is not a museum” or assertions that one should embrace the Disney “magic” without thinking too hard about the product’s integrity.
One of the beautiful things about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio is that it gives the individual some space to consider these questions. After all, it is a museum. As a museum, it is a place for contemplation of the life and work of not only Walt Disney, but the legion of artists he brought together like Mary Blair and Ub Iwerks. It allows the visitor to examine both the technical craft as well as the visual artistry, in an environment that is itself incredibly well designed.
Tuesday, 31 December 2013
If one wishes to, it's easy to look on the past year of Disney's performance with a growing sense of disappointment. One almost begins to approach each new press release about what is being mangled, removed, or forced upon us with a sense of impending dread. What are the highlights though? The stuff that keeps me coming back to the Mouse? The best things Disney has produced this year? Here are my votes for the Fab Five of 2013:
Anything to add? Anything you felt we missed? What were your highlights of the past year in Disney?
- Mickey Mouse. Hands down, the frenetic new Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts produced by Paul Rudish are the best thing Disney has produced all year. I eagerly await each new one that pops up online (and find a way around the exclusive American regional coding to watch them). Mickey sheds the "aw shucks" banality of a harmless corporate icon and rediscovers the inner s**t-disturbing smart-ass he was in the black-and-white era, but with a wonderful vintage-moderne aesthetic sensibility and great slapstick humour. It's so good to see Disney taking risks with the Mouse and having them pay off so well.
- Disney Dreams! Technically, this evening show at Disneyland Paris debuted last year. However, the version we saw was new for 2013, featuring two new segments with The Lion King and Brave, so I'm counting it anyways. I'm sentimentally attached to it because it was immediately after watching it that I proposed to Ashley. More objectively though, it is my second favourite Disney show after Fantasmic. Like Fantasmic, it perfectly captures the essence of a Disney park as a place to leave behind the real world and enter the Neverland where Disney films come to life. In this show, projection effects and fireworks set us on an adventure to track Peter Pan's shadow through a montage of classic musical numbers like "Be Our Guest" and "Friend Like Me" as we try to restore the pixie dust to the Second Star to the Right. Pure magic!
- Mystic Manor. Since having a Haunted Mansion would be grossly inappropriate in China, Hong Kong Disneyland got this instead, and in the process made Disney fans in North America froth with envy. An imaginative attraction with great effects, gags and characters, Mystic Manor is the sort of fresh and original ride that recalls the glory days of WED Enterprises. The only problem is that it's all the way in Hong Kong. Mystic Manor would fit so perfectly in Animal Kingdom or Adventureland. Instead we're stuck with "Soarin' over Pandora." Even find a way to shoehorn it into California Adventure, I don't care! Just bring it over here!
- The Lone Ranger. Unfairly maligned in ways I can't even figure out, The Lone Ranger was, for me, the surprise cinematic hit of the year. I suspect it's lack of success had something to do with the fact that you need to have a working understanding of both the history of Western settlement and the Western film genre to fully appreciate what it was trying to do, which is hard to find when audiences just want to see things punching other things really hard. Funny, intelligent and thought-provoking, with some great action scenes and fantastic pay-offs, I must agree with Quentin Tarantino that The Lone Ranger was one of the best films of 2013.
- It's a Small World: The Animated Series. It's a Small World, the ride, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned of Disney attractions, even as it is one of the most beloved. Looking at it as a massive piece of kinetic artwork that you float through rather than standing in front of in a gallery, I like it quite a lot. Perfectly fitting its theme. Disney Interactive has teamed with Rosetta Stone to produce an online animated series that is delightful, stylish, and educational. Rather than work directly from Mary Blair's art, the series' look derives more from Joey Chou's illustrations for the Small World book and iPhone app, which does lend the new franchise a nicely coherent brand. With additional music by Richard Sherman, co-writer of the original song, it's just really neat to watch.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
In our previous installment, we caught a glimpse of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, entered through security, saw the famous signpost at Pluto's Corner, entered the original Animation building and passed by Walt Disney's office. Now let's continue our tour with the soundstages...
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
During our trip to Disneyland USA in May of 2012, Ashley and I decided to take up the offer of a day-trip through Hollywood with Adventures by Disney. Entitled Lights... Camera... Magic!, this tour brought us to Grauman's Chinese Theater, the then-Kodak Theater and Hollywood and Highland Center, a brief stop at the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store in the El Capitan Theater, and the Original Farmer's Market for lunch. The true highlight, however, was a tour of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
For your enjoyment, here is a two-part photo-tour of our visit to the place where the magic is made. First is the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, which is the current home of feature animation and which was not on the itinerary of our tour. It does, however, very distinctively show off the stark contrast in architectural styles to be found at the studio. On the one hand are the original buildings from when the studios were built in 1940, and on the other are the products of Michael Eisner's love affair with architect Michael Graves in the Eighties and Nineties.
Nevertheless, here we are, passing through those gates and the security station made famous in The Reluctant Dragon and the Disneyland/Wonderful World of Color series.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
As such a significant cultural force, Disney and their Princesses franchise serve as a touchstone for gender issues that more often than not reach far beyond the actual content of the films upon which the franchise rests. Perhaps you have seen images like the one above before, or read certain feminist analyses of the Disney Princess films that arrive at similarly negative conclusions. Unfortunately, when such analyses present themselves as being "feminist," the resulting debate tends to focus on the nature and reach of feminism rather than more pedestrian concerns like whether the analysis is actually accurate to the source material. I do consider myself a proponent of women's rights, freedoms and social and economic justice, so I do not intend to make a criticism of feminism as such. It does seem to me that, sometimes, the legitimate concerns of feminism can override clear-thinking and sound research when analyzing works of art like Disney's animated films. What I hope to do by wading in with this article is nothing more than engage in the academic practice of closely and carefully summarizing the source documents - in this case the films - to determine whether these accusations are accurate without troubling to ignite a debate over feminism in-and-of itself.
The easiest accusations to dispense with are those which apparently missed the entire message of the film and arrived at a conclusion opposite to that message. For example, the above image states that the theme of Aladdin is that Jasmine's political worth is determined by her marriageability, which is true insofar as we're talking only of her political worth and even then it is only true up to the denoument. The overarching and (what one would think of as the) unmistakable theme of the film is that one's personal worth is determined by their character and not their economic, social or political rank. The Sultan does attempt to marry Jasmine off against her wishes, in accordance with the law of the land, which she actively rebels against. Jasmine goes so far as to flee the palace, whereupon she meets Aladdin, the thief who dreams of nothing more than being able to rise above his poverty and be afforded at least minimal human courtesies (though living in the palace would be awfully nice, he believes). After Jasmine is recovered and Aladdin comes across the magical lamp, he adopts the persona of Prince Ali Ababwa to woo her. For her part, Jasmine rebuffs his showiness and expresses absolute outrage at her father, Ababwa and Jafar discussing her fate without her consultation. It is only when she realizes that Ababwa is the same thief in the market that she softens to him. Jafar, the villain, also seeks the hand of Jasmine, but only for her political worth and her physical beauty. The villain is the one who degrades Jasmine, first morally and then actually after he acquires the lamp. In the end, when the villain is dispensed with, the Sultan realizes the error of his ways and changes the law to suit Jasmine. He recognizes the folly and disgrace of making his daughter act against her wishes, thus exercising his political power to enable Jasmine to marry the man of her own choosing, who himself has demonstrated that good character supersedes the merits of wealth and power.
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