Disney sings a new song

This morning I was singing my new favorite Disney song and watching it for the 20th time on You Tube. It’s from Frozen. I call it Elsa’s freedom song. The official title is Let It Go. (I think it should have been Bring It On.)

While watching the video and singing along I thought about the other leading lady songs I sang over the years and I realized something. Disney princesses have made a transition.

The first song I remember was Snow White. 1938. She sang in a wishing well about wishing for the one she loves to find her that very day. Lo and behold he came up on his white charger and climbed over the wall singing his love for someone whom he didn’t know existed 45 seconds ago.

Cinderella, 1950, also sings about wishing and dreaming.

Sleeping Beauty, 1959, sings songs about dreaming and wondering about love. “I know you, I met you before upon a dream.” That’s the only song in that movie that didn’t put me to sleep.

The little Mermaid 1989 sings a different tune. She is not actually looking for love: not at first. She wants to be part of a whole different environment. She actually sings about a career and maybe a cause. “Bright young women. Sink or swimin’ Ready to stand …” This is the end of the “marry a man with a good job” era and the beginning of the “find your own life and a man will come along” era. Part of this movie still bothers me a little as she wants to change her very nature to be with someone not even of her species. But that is the lesson of the original cautionary tale. Disney studios are saying this is okay. Yuk.

Remember these are Disney movies so each teenager (they are not all princesses) must find a man whether she is looking for one or not for the movie to have a happy ending.

Let’s move on to Jasmine from Aladdin. 1992. She doesn’t even have a wishing song. Aladdin starts the song and she joins in. But together they sing about seeing and experiencing new worlds, not falling in love. This demonstrates the changing attitudes of girls who no longer just wish for a rich prince to whisk them away but would rather see the world for themselves. If love comes along then that’s a fringe benefit. Perhaps Jasmine does not sing of love and longing because she actually takes action. She sneaks out of the palace to find her own adventures. Jasmine may have been the first girl (these heroines are only 15 or 16) to not fall in love with the first prince she sees.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast, 1991, is the second person to be approached by a handsome desirable man and say “hell no. You can’t give me what I want.” She rejects the lead male for something bigger.

Then along comes Pocahontas, 1995. The tune is getting a little old now. She sings of adventure, and rejects the handsome man and the life others have planned for her.

The Princess and the Frog, 2009, shows us something much different. Tiana wishes to start a business. At the very beginning of the movie she is approached by several men including a prince. She snubs them all. She does wish upon a star but she is also working toward that wish by working two jobs and saving every penny. I believe she is the first Disney leading woman to actually have a job.

So now let’s come to the present. Elsa, the emerging Ice queen from the movie Frozen, 2013, sings what I think is the most modern song yet. Her song is actually a song of triumph and freedom. This is unlike any other leading woman Disney has ever portrayed. She doesn’t wish for anything. Like the other girls she is held back and is kept a prisoner by those around her. Once she finds herself wandering alone in the wilderness she doesn’t sing of wishing for a prince to come along and free her. She is free, and she has made it to queen. No man needed. It takes her a minute to realize that she is free. Once she does she bursts into joyous song. Imagine Snow White doing that.

Note: I have left out some Disney leading ladies because I wanted to make a point, not provide a list.

Assignment 1

Here is an assignment from my Art appreciation class. The assignment was to comment on what my definition of art is vs. how I think art is defined by the rest of the world. It’s an odd question but I tried to answer it as best I could.

Most everyone chose to discuss visual art but I chose to discuss the written word. Actually I chose novels that had been made into movies.

Assignment 1

For me art and literature must tell a story within a story. Art should have deep meaning or create an emotion. It should make a statement and have a message: about society, politics, race relations, whatever. Yet it does not have to be crude and hit you over the head (but it can and that’s okay). Using this rule I can enjoy the genius in a Robert Crumb cartoon, a centuries old fairy tale or a seemingly harmless children’s book.

The beauty of a story within a story is, one does not have to see all the hidden meanings to appreciate the art. Many people can enjoy the same piece of art yet see very different things.

I am using as an example the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. This is a masterpiece that can be enjoyed and understood by every generation: albeit each generation understands it on a different level. Like any good piece of art it can be experienced several times and one will see something different each time.

Here is a Synopsis. Animal Farm is on the surface a book about how the farm animals wax tired of the mistreatment of the human farmer. They gather at night to sing songs of revolution. One day they overthrow the farmer and kick him off of his land and take over the farm. All goes well and all is good for everyone. But things begin to change. Jealousy and infighting begin to take over. The pigs especially begin to take over the role of the human farmer. At the end of the book it is impossible to tell the pigs from the humans who have been invited back to the farm.

This story is about, among other things, communism, socialism, imperialism, and capitalism. It’s not about animals and it’s not about a farm.

That’s my view of how art should be. How IMHO does much of the rest of the world see art? Actually I thought it was kind of arrogant for me to try and answer that, but as it was the assignment I complied.

Much of the world wants to see pretty things when they look at a work of art. They want to be entertained. They don’t want to be threatened. I watched a play once where the people were divided into the poor immigrants, the rich Whites and the ghettoized Blacks. It was a musical so there was lots of singing and dancing. The second act was more serious. A man was betrayed and used as a scapegoat. Afterwards a woman told me that she enjoyed the singing and dancing, but not the second half of the play. I have found this to be sadly typical.

John Q Public buys “art” to match his couch. It doesn’t matter what the art says as long as it has enough pretty colors in it. The public likes fluff. They don’t want to have to think too much. They want to protect their children from anything bad. This is why most good books are banned.

The only art they like has a “sanitized for your protection” sticker on it. I worked in an art museum once and a woman asked me if I could direct her through the museum in a way that she would not have to look at any nudes. I wanted to say, “Really lady? This is an ART museum.”

Since I used the written word for my first example I shall use the same for my second example. One that comes to mind is the Twilight Saga books. They entertain. They dumb down. They sanitize. They are not literature. The vampires are teenage, lovesick vegetarians that sparkle in the sunlight. They remind me of the old Harlequin romance books: all frosting and no cake.

My thoughts on Frozen

olaf
Last week I saw the movie Frozen. Not the one with the people stranded on a chair lift. The one by Disney with the oddest snowman I have ever seen.

I swear I wrote this before this movie walked away with an Oscar.

First I will say that this movie is strikingly beautiful. It’s not like those rain forest movies. That’s been done and done and done. This movie is mostly ice and snow. You would think that would get boring in a cartoon after a few minutes. But with the magic of Disney studios and a few touches from Elsa the snow queen ordinary ice is transformed into glowing ice towers and spectacular sculptures lit from underneath by what looks like traveling LED lights.

For me the spotlight of the film is Elsa’s freedom song. Let It Go. Like all good girls she was taught to hide her feelings and her talents until they inevitably burst out of her. Her facial expressions and body movements are a perfect blend as far as the marriage of human movement and animation goes. Elsa’s song depicts liberation, but clearly shows her turning icy and evil. Listen closely to the lyrics. Girl child is about to turn bad. Or so I thought.

elsa2

The movie has a downside. It’s the story. It’s lame and quite weak. I felt I was promised something I did not get. Things were hinted at but did not come to fruition. After reading a little of the back story I understood what was going on.

Elsa was originally supposed to turn into the cold heartless villain. Well, fairy tale villains die and this queen was far too young and beautiful to turn ugly and fall off a cliff. It seems that young girls identified with her more than boring Anna. So they re-wrote the part of Hans and made him the scapegoat. When he turned sour I asked the air, “Are you kidding me?” Such a twist is an old soap opera cop out used when the writers run out of ideas.

We were also led to believe that the Duke of Weselton was going to be the villain. He fizzled out like a cheap 4th of July sparkler. Why was he even in the picture except for a little comic relief? Wasn’t that the snowman’s job? I know that Disney studios often pay homage to a real person by sticking them in a cartoon. Maybe that was the case.

We find out that the wounded and chilling heart of Anna could only be warmed by a true act of love. We got hints that Olaf the snowman was going to be the sacrifice, but nope, Disney tricked us again.

There are lots of hints in this story that those of us who study this sort of thing pick up. Anna has the warm heart and Elsa has the cold heart. Ana has warm auburn hair and Elsa has cold ash blond hair. Elsa’s jammies are also the same ice blue as her queenly gown.

I also saw hints that led me to believe that Anna and Elsa might have originally started out as twins. Look at the banners in front of the castle: Twin silhouettes of young girls opposing each other. You don’t do that if only one person is in the spotlight. Remember the scene when the sisters are standing side by side with the throne behind them? That throne is bi colored representing the dual nature of the sisters. But there is only one throne. Is that a Jeckle and Hyde moment or what? Ana mentions how hot it was in there while Elsa remains cool and collected. Hint hint. Elsa also threw her crown away, opening the door for her sister to become queen. Had they been twins…

sven

I see several ways this story could have gone. Anna could have been the sister with the warm heart and magic spells of her own. What a battle that would have been: fire and ice battle it out for the crown. Of course they would both have to win. Remember that bi colored throne? The queen could have had a change of heart after destroying everything and warmed up so she wouldn’t have to go all Ursula on us and die or be banished. I kind of wanted to see her with the sleigh pulled by polar bears. (That was a deleted scene.) Although where she got polar bears in the Swiss Alps I don’t know. I’m guessing it was the Swiss Alps since they had fiords and names like Olaf and Sven.

I had lots of questions. Why was it summer in the town but winter in the mountains? I know there are snow capped mountains, especially in Switzerland but do you know how long it takes to walk up a mountain…in heels? And what was with the Eskimos singing? Not a brown face to be seen in this picture. Maybe they came from the same place as the polar bears.

Of course this is all speculation on my part. Elsa and Anna may have never been meant to be twins at all. Anna’s hair color may have been incidental. Maybe those weren’t Eskimos singing. I haven’t read Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen (although I intend to) and although there is a lot of “information” on Wikipedia, It is not reliable and I only go to that site for entertainment purposes.

So there it is. Just my two cents.