I’ve been watching a whole long list of animated movies, hoping to write two themed posts, so it’s been a while since I’ve been here. Things didn’t go as planned, but oh well!
Firstly, animated sequels to popular Disney films. Generally, they’re not nearly as good as the original. It’s like they passed the characters on to trainees to see what they would do.
Wait, that’s Iago, Jafar’s henchbird. So confusing.
I had bad timing when I got Aladdin 2, as Robin Williams had JUST passed away. I know he’s not in the second film, but the Genie is so distinctly his character that you could still feel his presence. Since said character is mostly comprised of imitating famous people, the voice actor (Dan Castellaneta, best known for voicing Homer Simpson) simply got to add Williams to his repertoire. He was adequate, but the plot was so dismal and simple, and the songs so unmemorable, that it really didn’t matter. What DID matter was that this movie finally explained to me how Iago ended up hanging out with Aladdin and company in the animated TV series. I guess it could be considered the pilot for that and be perfectly acceptable, but not as a movie sequel. Personally, I much preferred the third film, Aladdin and the Forty Thieves.
Unlike Kronk’s father, I am much more willing to give a ‘thumbs up’ to this film.
On the other hand, the spinoff sequel to The Emperor’s New Groove, Kronk’s New Groove, was fantastic. We get to follow kind hearted yet clueless former henchman Kronk after Yzma’s downfall. It’s a surprisingly complicated plot with four intertwined storylines – Kronk dealing with Yzma’s attempts at regaining power, his first love, his relationship with the children and elderly of the village, and his deep desire to earn a “thumbs-up” from his stern father. It’s definitely worth watching if you enjoyed the first movie.
Then I got into a few princess movies, specifically The Little Mermaid 2 and Mulan 2. Dismal, especially for the ‘princes,’ because they turn out to be so completely useless that they’re embarrassing.
But Mom, Grandpa is ALWAYS trying to give this thing away!
The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea, is the same story, but in reverse. Ariel and Eric’s daughter, Melody, must be kept away from the ocean due to threats made by Ursula’s slightly less threatening sister, Morgana. While King Triton is all too ready to hand over his trident (again!) and Prince Eric gazes stupidly in shock, it’s Ariel who saves her daughter’s life from the sea witch. Twice. And her husband. Probably her father, too, I got distracted. In any case, it can be pointed out that this is a rare Disney movie about the relationship between a mother and her daughter, which is mostly based on frustration and misunderstanding due to vital information being withheld. It’s one thing to decide your daughter should not visit your half of the family because of a death threat, but quite another to decide NOT TO TELL YOUR DAUGHTER THAT THEY EXIST AT ALL. Which must have been doubly confusing because Melody certainly knew about Sebastian.
I actually liked the princesses. And yes, these three are back.
Mulan 2 also raised my ire. Mulan and Li Shang are engaged after a scant three months of Shang knowing Mulan is actually female. Dragon guardian Mushu is upset about this due to losing his position as her guardian once she marries, and throughout the film is attempting to break them up. Shang stupidly keeps falling for his shenanigans. He was a great, strong male lead in the first movie, but here he’s just a dimwitted, jealous, suspicious, mediocre love interest. Very disappointing. Mulan also seems to have forgotten the first movie, and her heritage, entirely. The entire beginning of the first movie was about her going to a matchmaker, to be set up for an arranged marriage, which was, at that time period and in that country, perfectly normal. Yet, in the second film, she is appalled and shocked to hear about the arranged marriage of the Emperor’s daughters (princesses!) to form a political alliance.
I did enjoy a climatic battle scene towards the end of the film. It was well done, with even the Princesses joining in by throwing rocks, and a very moving conclusion to the fight. It felt like somebody else had written this scene, rather than the Disney interns.
Basically, watch sequels at your own risk. Cute and familiar characters, but the plot and music lacks. At the very least it gives parents an alternative when they’re sick of the same movie being watched over and over and over and over . . ..
Another ‘movie I’ve only seen once that people usually ignore’ that I decided to rewatch is Disney’s Tarzan.
First, I was shocked that Disney killed . . . a baby. Gorilla. Off screen, of course. But I guess it had to happen for the story to proceed, along with the (also off screen) deaths of Tarzan’s parents.
Secondly, I was also surprised that Phil Collin’s “You’ll Be In My Heart” appeared in the film, and it turns out he wrote it for Tarzan, along with all the other songs in the film. I still hear this on the radio, but had no idea it came from this movie. Did you?
Thirdly, Jane is adorable. I wish I could somehow dub her Princess of the Jungle so she could get more official attention. She’s smart yet cute in a slightly ditzy way, and unafraid to face new or stressful situations.
Tarzan, too, is complex. He learns early on that he’ll have to adopt a variety of different habits from his gorilla family if he wants to keep up with them, and so he studies other animals in the jungle, learning how different animals move around the forest, fight, and ‘talk.’ This lifetime of intense study of other species conveniently helps him to interact quickly with Jane and her father.
I also learned that elephants can swim. You just never really think about them being near bodies of water large enough for them to do so.
I recently watched “John Carter” and was enchanted enough to read the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who I later discovered also wrote the Tarzan series. I really need to add it to my reading list.
In searching for topics to discuss, I realized that there were a bunch of films I had missed. Oliver and Company is one of them, so it stopped by to visit from Netflix.
I was somewhat surprised and a little put off by the ‘modern’ setting. It’s quite rare in a Disney film. It SCREAMED 80’s, from the music choices right down to the little girl named Jenny. It seemed an appropriate choice, though, as my husband and I have been watching old episodes of MacGuyver on Amazon Prime, and the other night threw in The NeverendingStory for fun. So yes, there’s definitely lots of hair and oversized clothes in this movie.
Disney’s settings have always been deliberately vague. Once in a while you get a sense of ‘where’ it takes place, but never when. And I think that’s the important bit. The deliberate lack of historical details forces the story into that uncertain ‘once upon a time’ time. Which means everybody can relate to it. Sure, I remember the 80’s, but I still missed a lot because I was pretty young. Kids today will have very little clue about the time, except what their parents may have told them. The Princess and the Frog is one of the few princesses who got a definite, pretty close to modern time period, but again, it was so long ago that only a handful of people are still around who can remember it. Plus, a large portion of the story takes place in the swamp, which might as well have taken place ‘once upon a time.’
Other notes: I had a very hard time remembering that Oliver was a cat. Hanging around with all of those other dogs, well, it got confusing for me.
I was very amused by Francis who wanted to be an actor. Or possibly had been an actor. In any case, he was VERY good at playing . . . dead.
I don’t think I referenced this movie in my post about animating animals. It’s definitely an example of the first type of anthropomorphism – animals that act like real animals, but we get insight into their thoughts and problems. They talk, but humans only hear them barking. They can do things like open windows and operate machinery, but only in a way that their bodies allow them – using their teeth rather than their paws for holding, etc.
The characters were pretty stereotypically 80’s, too, the tough girl, the ‘cool’ guy that shows off by bullying the new/little guy, and the hyper hispanic, which was kind of stereotypically bad until I realized that it was Cheech Marin playing Alonzo, and that this was his schtick. Still, awkward. Also awkward is the whole street gang thing, which had a totally different outlook in the 80’s than it does now.
Did YOU spot Pongo from 101 Dalmations in one of the street scenes?
Probably not something I would watch again, although it was a nice, simple, don’t need to think hard plot. Just don’t get too distracted or you’ll forget you’re watching it.
After writing my post on movie monsters, I realized I had missed a whole section of movies for the topic on my netflix list. This time I’ll be writing about Megamind, Wreck-It Ralph, and Despicable Me. These movies fit in with the other post, but the main characters are not necessarily classic monsters, just typical bad guys. You HAVE to have a bad guy for the good good to fight, or what’s the point of the story? Well, here they are.
Megamind is a classic example of my point that society makes the monsters. He and another Superman-like alien arrive on Earth at the same time, but one ends up in a plush home, the other manages to land in a prison. Literally. Megamind TRIES to compete with MetroMan in terms of being an awesome good guy, but things always go bad for him, so he finally decides to just go all out and all bad. But when competition shows up, MegaMind finally gets the opportunity to be the good guy.
I loved this film. I counted at least 4 plot twists, and each one was amazingly unexpected. The heroine was snarky and clever, and reminded me a lot of Celia West in Carrie Vaughn’s book, After the Golden Age. This is a movie you have to pay attention to or you’ll have trouble figuring out the plot, so pick a quiet evening to watch.
Wreck-It Ralph has a similar theme. Video game characters in an arcade live a private life after the doors close, interacting with other game characters. However, what happens if you’re tired of being the bad guy in a game day after day for 30 years? Ralph is tired of getting all the pain of losing, and being treated as an outcast by everyone else in his game, for no other reason than he’s the bad guy. He’s NOT when the game isn’t being played! He sets out on a quest to win a medal to prove he can be good guy, and ends up causing (and solving) havoc in several other games as he apparently ‘goes Turbo.’
Despicable Me is much more subtle. Gru, the bad guy main character, gets outdone by Vector, another bad guy, and not to be outdone, sets out to outdo HIM. Along the way he adopts three orphaned girls as part of his plot to get into Vector’s house, and his villainry is slowly toppled by the chaos of his new ‘family.’ Gru doesn’t even realize it’s happening, and really, his villainous ways aren’t all that affected. In the end he’s got the family and ‘happily ever after,’ and even the title of hero. You don’t even feel that he’s going to STOP being a villain. He’s just got his girls to dote on now, too.
So here we have three antiheroes who have been unexpectedly moved into the hero role. They seem to do a pretty decent job of it. Maybe because they understand the mind of a villain so much better?
My husband and I finally managed to watch Frozen right before our trip to Disney World. His comment was that it was basically an exploration of mental illnesses. Everybody’s got issues in this film! I thought it was a little too well arranged to become a broadway play. The songs no longer assist to tell the story, they just sort of express an emotion at the time of the song. We were both slightly disappointed when Elsa didn’t turn into a wicked witch. She SO set herself up to be an awesome one.
The film also got me thinking about Disney films, siblings, and folklore in general. They haven’t done siblings TOO often, but it’s happened. Peter Pan, of course, has Wendy, John, and Michael. Lilo and Stitch features Lilo and Nani. Brave gives us Merida, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. The Little Mermaid’s main character, Ariel, has a slew of older sisters. The Incredibles has Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. If you want to consider non-Disney productions, there’s the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, with Katara and her brother Sokka, and An American Tail, featuring Tanya, Fievel, and Yasha Mousekewitz.
Now, let’s consider a few Grimm Fairy Tales with siblings. Right off the bat we have Hansel and Gretel, of course. Slightly lesser known is Snow White and Rose Red, which is one of my favorite stories, but I greatly doubt Disney will ever do this film, because they couldn’t possibly have TWO Snow Whites. Scanning through the titles, you can see a variety of stories with titles featuring siblings. Go take a look!
Lettie and Sophie Hatter
All right, what do these stories all have in common? The importance of working together. Of sticking together, of kindness without expecting anything in return. Of righting wrongs, whether you caused them or not. Watching each other’s backs. Sometimes defending each other from their own parents. When siblings set out separately to complete a task, they generally fail, and only find success when another brother (or sister) comes along to help. It’s become so much of a trope that sometimes it’s mocked. Have you ever read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones? The main character, Sophie, has two younger sisters, and right at the beginning of the story, she believes she’s doomed to failure in life just because she’s the eldest, and doesn’t even bother trying to have dreams, let alone reach them. She’s wrong, of course, as she turns out to be the sister who comes along to help the other two. Age isn’t the important thing, family loyalty is. Alone, Hansel and Gretel couldn’t escape the witch’s cottage, but together they manage to outwit her. Violet and Dash had different super powers which weren’t enough to help individually on Nomansian Island, but by combining them they’re able to keep themselves safe until help arrived. Tanya and Fievel are separated for most of the film, but they can somehow sense the positivity and hope that each is broadcasting to the other, and that keeps them working to find each other.
Ariel and her sisters
Sometimes the siblings are only there to emphasize differences. Ariel has lots of sisters, but they play only a minor role in the story. They establish what’s supposed to be ‘normal’ for a daughter of King Triton, which is certainly NOT a fascination with the human world. While it’s subtle, Merida’s brothers demonstrate the difference in expectations for this medieval princess vs princes. She’s expected to be a proper, obedient lady, and looks on with envy at the chaotic and free behavior of her brothers. Still, without her brothers, she wouldn’t have been able to right her wrong deed, and she knew EXACTLY what they were best at. John and Michael are mostly in the story to emphasize that Wendy no longer belongs in their world, and it’s time for her to grow up and leave the nursery. (ok, I don’t actually remember the Disney version. Is it the same as the book/play?) Cinderella has stepsisters who help emphasize how sweet and put-upon Cinderella is in comparison to their nasty selfishness.
There’s always a lesson in fairy tales. Your siblings are an asset. Use ’em!
Monsters have gotten surprisingly popular, haven’t they? Everybody’s all excited about zombies, vampires are sexy, and who doesn’t want to cuddle up with a werewolf? Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
There has been a spate of monster themed animated movies. I can’t say it was started by Pixar’s Monster’s Inc, or even by Tim Burton. I’ve previously made reference to a very old haunted animation clip by Disney, complete with dancing skeletons. Scary creatures being cute. Our minds actually seem to be OK with this.
I still want to say the first modern monster animation was Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. What could easily be a horror story is turned upside down by following the point of view of what would normally be the antagonist. Jack the Pumpkin King has just found out about Christmas! He loves it! He wants to join in! He just adds his own special flair. Artists all over the world experience the same excitement. And because we’re intimately exposed to Jack’s thoughts and experiences, we’re caught up with him and rooting for him, rather than fearing him.
I believe that we fear the unknown more than the known. A villain that lurks in the shadows and doesn’t soliloquize (or sing, for that matter) is much scarier than one with a wise-cracking henchman at his side that gets plenty of screen time. When the typical villain gets nearly all of the screen time, that fear vanishes. H’s a little weird, sure, but we’re able to relate to him now because we’re given the opportunity to understand him. The newer movies and even TV shows are embracing this different view, giving the monsters a little screen time to tell their story. A few recent ones have crossed my Netflix list.
Hotel Transylvania, by Sony Pictures Animation
What happens when plain old humans become the monsters? Count Dracula has opened up a hotel so that monsters can take a break from the human world. He’s raised his daughter to believe that humans are the scary ones that will kill her if she ever ventures beyond the safety of the property, even going so far as to stage a fake attack so that she doesn’t want to explore the world. Now throw a young, easy-going human into the hotel and see what happens.
I actually liked this movie. The interaction between Dracula and Johnny (the human) is well done, and demonstrates a good old fashioned ‘raised to misunderstand each other’ mentality. It speaks out against teaching hate to your children, and learning to accept people as individuals rather than stereotyping them into one negative feature. Johnny is a relaxed typical college-student-on-a-European-backpacking-trip who has already learned this lesson on his trips. I LIKED Johnny. Everything was amazing to him, and he instinctively knew how to connect with others. Dracula was the one suffering, but eventually he learned the life lesson he needed to give his daughter the freedom she craved.
Frankenweenie, by Disney and Tim Burton
You see Tim Burton’s name, and you know to expect originality. It really seems unfair to include Burton at all, because ALL of his movies seem to represent the monster perspective. So I’m going to focus on one of his less popular works. The most unusual feature of Frankenweenie was that it was a black and white stop-motion animated movie! From what I’ve seen online, it was filmed in color, but all the characters and sets were done in shades of grey. It gave a unique perspective, especially to the backgrounds. They looked more real, somehow, until you encountered the characters. It also makes the film LOOK scary even if the events occurring are really rather silly. Still, I don’t feel it’s a good movie for young children. There are definitely sad and scary bits.
This film is essentially about a lonely little boy’s experiment to bring his recently departed dog back to life, with old monster movie stereotypes running amok and considered essentially normal. Except for maybe the ‘bringing dead pets back to life’ thing. The movie had some surprisingly important messages in it, mostly delivered in the form of the school’s science teacher. The one I needed the most was “It’s OK to fail so long as you keep trying.” The one that made me laugh was his speech at the school meeting where the parents are questioning the science teacher’s curriculum. They ask him to explain himself.
Ladies and gentlemen. I think the confusion here is that you are all very ignorant. Is that right word, ignorant? I mean stupid, primitive,unenlightened. You do not understand science, so you are afraid of it. Like a dog is afraid of thunder or balloons. To you, science is magic and witchcraft because you have such small minds. I cannot make your heads bigger, but your children’s heads, I can take them and crack them open. This is what I try to do, to get at their brains!
Um, yeah. Sometimes you just shouldn’t ask a scientist what’s on his mind. I don’t really feel that the science teacher should be held at fault for any of the events that occurred in the film. He was merely teaching his students the basics of electricity and lightning. It was Victor who figured out the bringing-to-life process, and his cheating schoolmates who copied his attempts (poorly) and caused subsequent chaos. I’m not sure if there was as clear a message in this film, except possibly ‘be careful about what science experiments you perform on your pets.’
Monster House, by Amblin Entertainment
This is an animated comedy/horror film, which certainly makes sense if you’re trying to save money on special effects. I didn’t know comedy horror was a thing. It feels a lot like The Goonies, and then all of a sudden you realize you’re watching Harry Potter. Yep, there’s the bullied kid with the frustrating family and the rather useless sidekick friend, and oh look, now they’re teaming up with the smart girl! What’s that, they find out there’s something horribly wrong in the neighborhood and are suddenly determined to save the day? Yeah. Fortunately, THESE kid turn to the authorities for help first. When the cops are suddenly in trouble, it’s now their turn to figure out how to stop this monster house. Definitely not for young or sensitive kids. While it’s not glorifying movie monsters, the ‘monster’ in this film is actually a normally inanimate object. This would have been an impossible story to tell without the help of animation. It’s also surprisingly complex. You assume the old man is the antagonist in the movie, and then you realize it’s the house, and THEN you discover it’s NOT the house, itself. The plot rolls on.
ParaNorman, by Focus Features (Universal)
I read the description for this and immediately thought, “Johnny and the Dead!” Perhaps I read Terry Pratchett too much? Anyway, I cringed at first because I thought it would be an exact replica of Harry Potter/Monster House main characters. Three misfit children, one destined to be a hero with special gifts, unsympathetic parents, out to save the town from the wrath of the ghost of a colonial era witch. Fortunately the ‘smart girl’ turned out to only have a very small role, and ‘goofy sidekick’ turned out to be the most reasonable, helpful, and well adjusted sidekick I’ve ever encountered. Norman gets his help from his snotty sister, Norman’s jock brother, and a random bully caught up in the chaos, but he could have essentially done it all without them.
I really liked Neil the sidekick, probably more than Norman did. Neil was unbothered by bullying, accepting of Norman’s ‘freaky’ talent, and brave when it came to scary encounters and protecting his friends. Nothing got him down, whereas Norman was so weighed down by his ‘gift’ that he had become a loner in order to deal with it. Neil and Norman aren’t friends, and I’m not exactly sure if they will even become friends after the events in the movie. Well, Neil gladly will, I’m not sure what will happen to poor Norman.
The movie is essentially a stern warning against bullying, and about stopping, listening, and understanding an unknown/fearful situation first before resorting to violence. The point is amusingly made at the very beginning of the movie, by Norman’s (dead) grandma while they’re watching a horror film.
Grandma: What’s happening now?
Norman: Well, the zombie is eating her head, Grandma.
Grandma: That’s not very nice. What’s he doing that for?
Norman: Because he’s a zombie. That’s what they do.
Grandma: He’s gonna ruin his dinner. I’m sure if they just bothered to sit down and talk it through, it would be a different story.
The message that came across after watching these monster films was quite profound and unexpected from what appears to be a silly category. We’re used to typical vampires, werewolves, and zombies spreading their curse and making more monsters, but really, the way humans treat other people, WE’RE the ones making the monsters. Dracula turns the tables and turns humans into monsters for his daughter, when in reality, the humans in their village are holding celebratory “Dracula Days” in honor of his fame. Teasing, taunting children are what turned Constance Nebbercracker into a vengeful spirit that animates her home. Fearful judges torture a young girl with a ‘freaky’ gift to death, who in turn curses THEM and turns them into monsters and starting a long cycle of potential horror for a small town. Frankenweenie addresses the fear and stupidity that go hand in hand when something different happens and people don’t know how to react. So much violence and pain, just because we’re cruel to one another.
I came across this metapicture post on Pinterest the other day, and laughed.
Then I took it to a more serious intellectual level. What’s the body count for bad guys vs good guys? Not nearly as high as I originally thought. Plus the comments turned out to be a bit wrong.
We’ll start at the beginning. Who dies in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? The Wicked Queen, essentially pushed to her death by the dwarfs. (I think lightning and a cliff was involved, too, so their hands technically aren’t bloody.) Did we see her kill anyone? No. Implied that she had in the past? Yes. Attempt to kill someone? most definitely yes.
No deaths in Cinderella, and her father’s death before the story begins is presumably natural.
Sleeping Beauty – Prince Phillip kills Malificent, also a cliff falling death. She’s certainly seen scaring people, but I don’t believe the wicked fairy kills anyone during the movie.
The Little Mermaid – Ursula merely turns mermaids and mermen into . . . shrunken sea monkeys? They’re not dead, but we do witness the explosive deaths of her companions, Flotsam and Jetsam, by King Triton. Eric kills the wicked sea witch by driving the prow of a ship into her. In Aladdin, Jafar actively tries to kill the sultan, but fails. Gaston falls to his death from the Beast’s castle. Hook is well known for being a murderer, and in the book, everybody pretty much kills indiscriminately, pirates and indians and lost boys alike, but the movie is much tamer. Hook falls from the ship into the jaws of the hungry crocodile and races off, presumably to be eaten off-screen. Lots of attempts, no actual on-screen deaths. Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove (that’s the lady in purple and black on the far right) is another failed murder plotter. She lives, but gets turned into a cat.
Don’t think that all movies are death-by-villain free. No one has ever forgiven Disney for killing Bambi’s mother. And there’s the poignant and dramatic death of Simba’s father, Mufasa, at the claws of his brother, Scar. ALSO a cliff falling death into a stampeding herd of wildebeests. Scar is in turn killed after a vengeful Simba throws him off Pride Rock, into a pack of furious hyenas. We also have Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who kills Quasimodo’s mother, and probably others in the burning of houses in the city. Frollo also dies – FALLING from the cathedral balcony. Mother Gothel kills Eugene in Tangled, but Rapunzel is able to bring him back to life with the last of her magic. What happens to her? SHE FALLS FROM THE TOWER. Facilier, the voodoo king from The Princess and the Frog, is responsible for the death of Ray, a comic relief sidekick in the form of a firefly. He gets dragged to Hell by random angry voodoo spirits, which probably counts as falling. Shan Yu, in Mulan, kills all across China, though most deaths happen off screen. He is responsible for the death of a messenger and a defender of the Great Wall. Mulan finishes him off with fireworks on the top of the roof, which means that he fell off. In Pocahontas, we have the death of Kocoum by a secondary character, Thomas, John Smith’s friend. Quite a feat for a sidekick! It’s hard to define Thomas, as he’s not really made out to be villainous.
This is not a definitive list, but a good representation, I hope.
The Wicked Queen (Grimhilde)
I’m not sure which is more interesting, a roughly even death rate caused by heroes and villains, or the fact that most villains die while falling from something. What’s THAT about? Does it make the deaths less horrible, less personal? The audience knows they’re doomed, but doesn’t have to SEE the body to know it’s a body? Does it make the hero less of a murderer because technically gravity is at fault? Maybe it’s just a successful dramatic climax.
But seriously, future Disney Villains – STAY ON THE GROUND.
I miss doing this blog at times, so I’m going to start it up again. No set schedule. To encourage myself to keep writing, I just have to start watching more animated films, right? I’ve padded out my Netflix list with movies I haven’t yet seen or have only seen once. Two of the films I got one after the other had a surprisingly similar theme on becoming gods.
Hercules: by Disney – a full length film basically about a young man’s attempts to get the approval of his father and achieve godhood at the same time.
The Road to El Dorado: by Dreamworks – a film about two young men in search of wealth who randomly have godhood thrust upon them.
Hercules, quite possibly the very first Brony.
I found Hercules to be highly disappointing. I certainly understand the massive sanitizing the stories underwent, because it’s Disney, but I felt it could have been done much better. The music was blah, the love interest, Megara, is cold and unpleasant, and everybody’s selfishly dreaming of achieving personal goals. I never really felt that any of the characters ‘connected’ with each other. Hercules is a rather bland stock character, young and looking for his place in life, and his only reason for helping people and undertaking impossible challenges is to gain the approval of his birth father, who happens to be Zeus, king of the gods. With that approval he gets to be a god himself! Surprisingly little altruism! What would he have done with that super strength if he continued to think he was human? The sidekick, a rotund, dirty satyr named Phil, is especially unlikable, and weirdly cast as a washed up ‘hero trainer.’ (really??) He’s glum because no one he trained ever made it big, but is convinced to give it one more shot to achieve his own fame at Hercules’ efforts. In the end, everybody (but Hades) has worked hard, gotten what they wanted, and they all live happily ever after. Except me. I was bored and unimpressed.
I was particularly disgusted with the whole hero training thing. You can’t train to be a hero! Heroism is something that happens spontaneously, a selfless act – risking your own life to save that of another. For most heroes it’s unexpected, unplanned, and after it’s over, if they’ve survived, they’re kind of shocked that people are excited about what they did. I think soldiers, police, or fire fighters are different. They’re training to handle specific situations so that they don’t have to sacrifice themselves. I was also annoyed by the whole ‘You have to prove you’re worthy before I call you son’ thing. Very offensive. He already has a foster father who loves him just the way he is. Go back home, Hercules.
The Road to El Dorado had a much lighter, original storyline. The animators also had some fun playing with new animation technologies, so we have some incredible scenes where you can’t tell if it’s real, drawn, or somewhere in between. Dated now, yes, but at the time and on a full size movie screen it must have been incredible. The story features Tulio and Miguel, two fun, snarky friends with the sole goal of achieving personal wealth. Unpleasant circumstances occur, and they find themselves in the New World with nothing but a treasure map and a horse. When they reach El Dorado, they are presumed to be gods due to their appearance and being on a horse, and are treated accordingly. Tulio wants to go home with the treasure being freely bestowed on them, Miguel is kind of enjoying the attention and wants to stay. They are forced to make a decision when they realize the town is in danger from a marauding conquistador and a high priest who is furious that the ‘gods’ he has spoken for for so long are now contradicting him.
Now THIS story I like because the characters grown and change. Unlike Hercules, who mostly just gains a little self confidence, Miguel and Tulio must sacrifice their own plans to save a city. They have learned that there’s more to life than riches and fame. On the other hand, I dislike Chel, the female love interest, almost as much as Megara. She’s selfish, greedy, and surprisingly hard to understand, having been given a thick latin accent, which frankly she shouldn’t have yet, not having been exposed to Spanish influences. If possible, she’s even more conniving and greedy than our two heroes.
Is the adoration of people all it takes to make you a god? Hercules might have some problems with that. For that matter, so might Thor, although he was more of a king/leader than a god as depicted in the recent films. Fuzzy lines. Hercules certainly didn’t have worshippers, although technically he had fans, which are kind of he same thing. (If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy a book by Terry Pratchett, called Small Gods, that discusses what happens to gods when their worshippers disappear.)
These movies deal with ancient religions that have devolved into folklore. There are a few religious animated films, like The Prince of Egypt, where the God of current, monotheistic religions is treated with an air of mystery and seclusion. He shows up only to save the day for the faithful, and we’re not likely to see him display any human emotions or characteristics. We’d be lucky to see Him in a human shape and not as a stream of light or a burning bush. Moses temporarily gets the ability to control water, parting seas and pulling it from rock, but he certainly is not elevated to godhood status.
Godhood in animated movies is kind of vague, and generally hard to distinguish from comic book superheroes. There’s very little difference between Mr. Incredible and Hercules, or even Frozone and Zeus. Frankly the only thing that made Tulio and Miguel gods is the willingness of the people to treat them as such, with gifts, sacrifices and a complete willingness to obey their every command. They didn’t even exhibit any super powers, they just looked different and had a horse, a completely unknown species to them at the time. (having an ancient image depicting them also helped. presumption.)
So, which is a better choice, being a god or a super hero? Super hero is certainly less controversial, although you generally have to live a double life, which can be frustrating and unpleasant. Certain super heroes, like Iron Man and Batman, have shown that you don’t even need to have a special power to become one, just a lot of money. Lucky them. And is there that much of a difference between being a god and a super villain, for that matter? Gods get to be responsible for both the good and the bad, and don’t really have to answer for their actions. Villains and gods are also more likely to demand gifts and sacrifices.
This animation, Heal, by Ghost Productions, was shared in a hobby group I belong to. Frankly, I felt a little queasy by the end, so be warned! The video depicts an accident, and follows it with the various ways broken bones and joints can be repaired (or even replaced!) through modern technology.
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, by Rembrandt
Animation is a great way to illustrate medical processes and procedures without, y’know, having to be there and get bloody. (I guess it also saves on bodies needed for demonstrative purposes.) If you need to have a hip replaced and want to understand the process better, it’s a lot easier to view a video than to watch it being done on someone else.
There are quite a few medical animations available on Youtube – check out the list on the right hand side, and see how well your stomach holds up!