Frozen Or How Disney Got Its Groove Back

Don’t worry Disney. You’ll find your footing one day.

I’m gonna embarrass myself here, card carrying Vag Pounder after all, but I fucking love Disney cartoons. Or, at least I used to, the old ones, the ones where animals talked, princesses sang, and everyone lived happily ever after. Their animation catalogue is, cumulatively, some of the most timeless films ever created. And they got that way through a mixture of pixie dust, memorable music, and focus on, as I always harp is more important than anything, character.

Yet, over the last twelve years-ish, Disney has suffered an identity crisis. One that started with Pixar, grew with Dreamworks, and flamed out spectacularly with Meet The Robinsons. And it was all because Disney stopped trusting who it was and what it did best.

I don’t blame them. Anyone would get an identity crisis if they started comparing themselves to Pixar. Pixar, in the early nineties, was new and shiny. The  pretty new girl everyone wanted to fuck. Plus it raked in a shit ton of dough. Around the time Pixar was rising, Disney was on the wane. The company had trouble with traditional musicals like Tarzan. So they switched to non-musicals, like Atlantis, which also failed spectacularly. Nothing seemed to strike a chord with the masses.

The company was at a crossroads. Pixar made it look easy. Dreamworks hit big with Shrek. And, for the next decade, Disney would lose itself. And I mean REALLY lose itself. We’re talking I’m-gonna-buy-three-corvettes-and-date-nineteen-year-old-girls level midlife crisis loss of self. They tried everything. They copied Dreamworks with Chicken Little. They copied Pixar with Meet The Robinsons. Nothing worked. Nothing stuck. They were a company lost thanks to a mixture of corporate greed and jealousy.

Then fate intervened. Pixar was officially absorbed into the Disney brand. And, with that, brought in John Lasseter, the only man alive who might possibly live up to Walt Disney himself. See, Mr. Lasseter knows that good story and character trump everything. He also knew that the one thing Disney did best is earnest musicals. If Disney did that, and did it well, the money would follow.

Now, I’m not going to lie, there’s been a bit of a learning curve. Disney basically had to reset and learn how to make great films again. They showed exceptional promise with The Princess and The Frog. Took a bit of a step back with Tangled. And almost got it right with Wreck-It Ralph. But, with Frozen, they seem to have finally gotten their shit together. I get that’s a long way to go just to say, “I fucking loved Frozen.” But, whatever, Disney had me worried there but after watching Frozen, I’m ready to welcome them back with open arms.

Everything about Frozen is both familiar and new. There are princesses, dashing heroes, magic, wacky sidekicks, and musical numbers. Everything that made Disney great is out in full force. But, because this is an older and wiser company, the plot twists trump clichés just enough to surprise the audience.

Because, truly, there are some very un-Disney ideas in this film. First and foremost, the main relationship in the film is between two sisters. Their love lives take a back seat to some really solid female bonding. In fact, this might be the most feminist Disney cartoon of all time. Yes, they have the standard Disney love story thrown in, but the main conflict comes from two sister trying to help each other.

Listen, I could write about this film all day. It made me feel warm and fuzzy like few films have in recent memory. It’s fucking gorgeous. The characters are vibrant and likable. It’s Disney as it should be. The company isn’t trying to emulate other animation houses. They’re not trying to relive their glory days. Nope. This is a studio that, finally, after years of failed ideas and identity crises, understands what they do best. And what they do best is sincere musicals that have the potential to stand the test of time.

Welcome back, Disney. I greatly missed you.

Grade: A

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Wreck-It Ralph

“Dude, I don’t care if you’re a video game sprite, You’re not fucking eating my flesh.” – Ralph

Sometimes I wonder just how much Disney hates Pixar. Think about it. Before Pixar, Disney was fucking it. Sure, sometimes companies would make a cartoon or two, but Disney was king. It didn’t matter what they made, audiences had to eat it up and be grateful.

For most of the nineties, Michael Eisner had the luxury of being like, “Families don’t want to watch a film about a Hunchback?!?! Too bad!!! Make that fucking movie!!!!” Or, “I don’t give a shit if it’s historically accurate and gross, Pocahontas need giant tits AND bang John Smith!!!”

Then Eisner made a misfire, from a corporate standpoint. He hired a tiny little, relatively unknown company named Pixar. And, like all young hungry talented whelps, Pixar changed everything. Suddenly story mattered. Out of the blue, it became cool to please both children and adults. And, more important to investors, Pixar always returned a profit during a time when Disney became fat and lazy.

This miscalculation cost Eisner his job.

And, through the fog, Pixar started a new fad of hip, fun cartoons aimed at everyone. It’s been a good run for Pixar. I honestly love their shit on a completely biased level. They could make a film about a talking piece of shit and I’d probably be like, “Dude, sweet!!!”

Yet, there are signs the company is getting just as fat and lazy as Disney was in its renaissance. Because, frankly, Cars 2 blew fucking chunks and Brave barely lived up to its potential. And, worse yet, Disney’s been in the wings, brandishing its swords, and slowly coming back and making great films. Princess and The Frog stands up to the best of all Disney films. Tangled was a little uneven but still managed to be awesome. And, bringing us up to the present, is Wreck-It Ralph, which proves that this company is ready to fight for its crown.

Wreck-It Ralph takes place inside an arcade machine where, much like toys in Toy Story, the video game characters come to life and hang out when players aren’t looking. Our hero? Actually isn’t much of a hero. In fact, Ralph has been programed to be a villain in a Donkey Kong style game from decades ago. In that time Ralph has grown tired of being the baddie. He wants to bang chicks and get cake, like a hero. So he goes on a quest inside multiple games in hopes to bang chicks and get cake.

It doesn’t take a genius nerd to see Disney stole a couple of pages from Pixar’s playbook. There’s a lot of background gags, inside jokes, and just a simple focus on character. Yet, there’s a decidedly Disney approach to the film too, as most of the characters honestly aren’t as edgy as most Pixar characters are. It’s a good blend that works.

Now, things aren’t perfect. The film starts amazingly, flying out the gate with numerous jokes and deflt laying out the rules of the arcade world. But things kind of level off in the second act and, for the middle of the film, characters are just kind of spinning wheels until something awesome happens.

Which brings us to the finale, this film really cares about the third act. I harp on this constantly but it’s the truth: the third act IS the film. You can have the world’s greatest first or second act but it doesn’t fucking matter if everything falls apart at the end. Ralph is almost pathologically obsessed with the third act. It’s a pleasant surprise after a tepid middle half. I was almost ready to write off Ralph then, BAM, totally fucking sweet ending that legitimately felt earned.

I imagine Pixar’s very own John Lasseter had a huge hand in this film’s ending. Hell, he’s pretty much responsible for shaping up the House of Mouse. I don’t care who is in charge as long as they keep making rad films. Wreck-It Ralph is good enough to be Pixar. But proudly bares the Disney name. Like I said, there’s fuel left in this company’s tank yet and I can’t wait to see them work it out.

Grade: B+

Brave

“But, Ma, I don’t want to bang those dudes.”

Pretend you have a kid. (Sorry, that sucks that you popped one out, maybe you should have practiced safer sex and now you wouldn’t be stuck with a whiny-money sucker.)

We’ll name your kid… oh… I don’t know… Pixar. Anyway, Pixar is straight A all the way. The little nipper is valedictorian, prom royalty, and wins every major sport they practice. If Pixar was a car- shit I’m analogy crazy today- it would be a Porsche: sleek, smart, and easy to love.

It goes without saying, after years of excelling, you expect a lot from Pixar. I mean… Pixar never fails. It’s the perfect child. You love Pixar. Pixar can do no wrong.

Then Pixar, one day out of the blue, makes Cars 2, one of the shittiest movies of last year. Up is down, black is white, universes are collapsing into each other. Oh wait, none of that happened. The world kept spinning and Hollywood kept making sequels while Pixar licked its wounds and promised to do better with Brave.

And the did. No doubt about it, Brave is a million times better than Cars 2. But that’s an obvious, and easy goal to attain. There’s nowhere to go but up. But it’s hard to tell if the film would have been as enjoyable has Cars 2 never happened.

The film centers around Princess Merida who is forced into this game where dudes from other clans try and bang her. Merida wants none of it though. She’s got a mighty strong chastity belt that keeps all the fellas at bay, which annoys her mom. Princess and Queen fight. Magic things happen. And we all learn a lesson about how awesome mothers are.

Aw, I’m crying all over my keyboard here.

Truthfully, I love that moral. I started scanning films in my head and the list of films, good films, about mothers and daughters is short, scarily short. We all know Hollywood hates chicks but it’s still strange they don’t appease chicks who are moms or have moms which is, like, almost all of the chicks in the world.

And of course it should be noted that it’s visually flawless. Every hair, every freckle, every movement of Meria is fluid and immaculate. Not to mention the staggering beauty of the forests she runs through.

So the actual set up, moral, and visuals are pretty rock solid but something stale still permeates the film. It’s actually not something I could put my finger on. I’ll have to check it out a couple of more times before I figure it out but, at the end of the day, there was just something very, very un-Pixar about the entire film.

At least it wasn’t Cars 2. Boo-ya!!!!!

Grade: B+