31 January 2010

Disney: A reflection

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would jump at the chance to see a Disney animated film. I could not wait to see Beauty and the Beast. Lilo and Stitch is among my favorites.

But there have been a lot more misses: Hunchback (which I have forbidden any of my children to see because of some scenes). Hercules. Pocahontas.

And now The Princess and the Frog.

Disclaimer: My youngest is princess-mad. Specifically Disney-Princess-mad. I've seen 'em all. Multiple times. I love most of the Princess movies, myself. I have issues with Ariel and her weak-willed self, but I can deal. (And of course the daughter LOVES Ariel the most. I'm trying to sway her to Belle, a better role model, IMHO.)

So we had to go to Princess and the Frog. I had high hopes for this one. I really did. The animation is beautiful. The storyline, not so much. The songs, not memorable.

When we came back from the movie, the older two asked me to say a few funny lines.

I couldn't come up with one. Not one line, not one moment that stuck with me. In Any Way.

That tells you where Disney is getting it wrong.

The story sells. The hook into our emotional core brings us back.

We re-watch Cinderella because the story is good and we want Cinderella to defeat the evil Stepmother. She's the underdog. Who among us hasn't been the underdog?

Coraline sticks with us because the story is good and we have ALL hated our parents and wanted something different. Up was funny, but it was true, heartfelt AND IT HAD A GOOD STORY about regrets. Who among us hasn't had regrets on things not done?

The Princess and the Frog had good storytelling potential, and Disney wasted it. The underlying theme of Up and Coraline is about family. They tugged at our heartstrings because they used emotion and made the story tweak our hearts.

Princess and the Frog is supposed to be about family. The importance of family over work or play. But you barely see the lead character's families. Heck, you see and know more about the dang Cajun fireflies and their family dynamic than you do the main characters' families.

You don't feel for the main characters at all. I'm not even sold that the main characters learned anything at the end.

That's where Disney falls down. Flat. Until they figure it out, Pixar and every other animation studio is going to crush them at the box office, and Disney's going to have to try and live by marketing the hell out of Princess crud to parents like me.

How long will we be buying if the story isn't any good? Will my daughters have fond memories of the movies out now?

I doubt it.

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