Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

I am very excited to see Disney's latest movie The Princess and the Frog for a number of reasons. First, I have always loved Disney's ability to re-tell a traditional fairy tale. When I was growing up, Disney's movies were considered cannon - they were the ultimate authority for fairy tails. But now that I am older, what I really like is Disney's ability to re-tell a story (that is, take a traditional tale, but some sort of spin on it). In this case, set the familiar story in 1920's New Orleans. What an interesting way to re-tell an old, familiar story.

But that isn't the main reason I'm excited to see it.

I am also very excited because it is the first Disney movie to feature an African-American heroine (I refrain from saying princess as I so dislike that term. Princess, to me, denotes royalty, but little else. Heroine, on the other hand, can be anyone from a princess to a poor girl on the streets - it is her pluck that drives the story - but I digress). When Beauty and the Beast came out, I was very excited because it finally featured a heroine with brown hair and brown eyes - finally, a heroine who looked like me! Before that time, it seemed that only blonde, redheads, or girls with snow white skin and black hair were the standards of beauty. But what I felt cannot even compare to how hundreds of little girls (and their mothers) must feel right now.

But that also isn't the main reason why I'm excited to see it.

The main reason I'm excited is because of what I refer to as

It's the Story, Stupid!

Back in the 1990s, the Walt Disney company made what I consider to be their biggest blunder of all time - they decided to lay off all their traditional animators and focus solely on computer animation. I do not know the full reasons for this idiocy. I suspect it came at the time when Pixar was king of the box office, while Disney movies were lagging far, far behind. Among this hoopla for the new computer animation, Disney must have thought that traditional hand-drawn animation was as dead as the dodo and sacked all their traditional animators. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I am a fan of animation. I have always enjoyed its ability to tell stories and take us places that we may not otherwise be able to go. But I enjoy it as an art form. I love the beauty of traditional art to capture human movements and expressions in a way that computer animation still cannot (notice I do say human - computer animation has always been great at depicting non-human things, but when it comes to humans, the people always seem to me more like bubbles than humans. It could never make that leap in the way traditional animation always could.) Just look at this frame. It is so much more beautiful than anything a computer animated movie could do. To me, this looks like a work of art and to me, that was what animated shows could be - moving works of art.

But having said that, if the story is great, it could be told using popcicle sticks. It's the story that is most important - more than great animation or computer wizardry. If the story is weak, then everything else falls apart (though Hollywood seems to constantly forget that). Let me go back to the time when Disney sacked it's animators. Pixar was creating movies such as Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Finding Nemo. Disney, as I recall, was doing Lilo and Stitch, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet. Hmmm, not exactly the most memorable of movies. Why did Pixar succeed where Disney failed? Because Pixar has great stories! This is as true then as it was now. Disney had forgotten then what were it's great stories and went with the trend of the day. I don't know about you, but the thought of a traditional fairy tale done in computer animation seems about as appealing as Mickey Mouse rapping. Just because things look good doesn't mean they hold up (take a look at most of the movies made by Dreamworks and other such companies). In the end, it is the story that people come back to.

I have not seen The Princess and the Frog, but intend to soon. I will give my review next week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Greetings After a Long Hiatus

Over a year has passed since my last blog post. Much has changed during that time including two deaths in my family, one birth, and a move from the east to the west coast. I hope my fans (two goldfish, a cat, and a golf ball!) can forgive my lax postings because of these major interruptions. I plan to not only keep up with this blog, but to post much more regularly as well. I plan to keep the focus on children's literature and writing, but will expand my focus to areas that I am interested in as well, just to keep things interesting. I hope that you'll enjoy this more expanded Slush Pile Chronicles and hopefully I'll be able to garner more fans (three goldfish!)