Beauty & the Beast Remains Relevant.

 

From Beastly’s False Fairytale” by Alex Leo on Jezebel:

“Unlike Ariel giving up her voice for love or Sleeping Beauty being woken by Prince Charming, this story has immediate and practical implications for our culture—especially for young girls trying to figure out who they are and what they ‘have to do’ to be accepted. The problem is that while the story sets the goal that the Beast stop judging people based on their looks and learn to see the beauty within, the male lead always ends up with a hot woman. It’s right there in the title! She’s a beauty and he’s a monster and I am confused. If the point is that he truly change and accept that looks are merely skin-deep, then shouldn’t he end up with a less-than-stunning partner?”

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Beastly’s False Fairytale.

Movies: Blondes Have More Fun—And They’re Magical!—In Tangled.

 

The premise of the latest Disney princess effort—a retelling of the story of Rapunzel—is that the damsel in distress is locked away in her tower so that mean baddies won’t be able to find her and steal her supernatural healing powers.

The clincher is that if she cuts her long hair, it turns brown and loses its magical properties. A blatant favouritism of blondes over brunettes if ever there was one!

Granted, the brunette Disney princess has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, with the first African American princess, Tiana, in The Princess & the Frog, Mulan, Esmeralda of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Jasmine from Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast’s Belle, and even the flame haired Little Mermaid. Perhaps the blonde haired heroines (okay, I wouldn’t exactly class Cinderella and Aurora as “heroines” per se, but Rapunzel certainly kicked some but in Tangled) wanted a shot at the multi-dimensional princess crown.

Other than that, I really enjoyed Tangled. I usually find Mandy Moore supremely annoying, her voice especially, but I could barely tell it was her throughout the movie. Chuck’s Zachary Levi was great as the misunderstood Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert. Unfortunately, I missed the first ten minutes or so due to a delicious brunch and Saturday morning traffic on Chapel Street, however it was fairly easy to pick back-story up at the tear jerking pinnacle.

The Representation of Trees in the World of Walt Disney.

This is an edited version of a research article I wrote in 2008; one of the most inspiring and fun essays to write for uni, which was reflected in my mark. It’s a left of centre topic, and maybe a bit left of centre for this blog, but it’s just something I’m trying out. Go with it.

When we think of the wonderful world of Disney, trees aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mindunless you’re a horticulturalist!

You might think of the magic of such classics that bring back childhood memories, like Peter Pan or Dumbo; the crown jewel of Disney that is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: or the somewhat negative public perception of Disneyland, Disney World and the subsequent “Disneyfication” of the Western world. The one thing we definitely don’t immediately associate with Disney is trees.

But the tree is a very important aspect of not only Disney films, but the whole universe that Walt Disney created. Did you know that there are over 5,000 different types of trees at Anaheim, California’s Disneyland theme park, including Australia’s own eucalyptus tree?

And in almost every movie the action, at some point, takes place in a forest or woodland area, abundant with lush growth. In Snow White, the title character is stalked by the huntsman and seeks solace in the Seven Dwarves’ cottage in the woods. Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora ponders her future love in the forest amongst her animal friends. Beauty and the Beast’s heroine Belle and her noble steed are attacked by wolves in the snow-covered wilderness surrounding the Beast’s castle.

So where did the mastermind Walt Disney gain his inspiration for the use of trees? Some of his first fairytales he adapted into feature films came from the Brothers Grimm, who wrote Snow White and Cinderella, undoubtedly two of the most popular and well loved fairytales and, thereby, characters.

The Brothers Grimm, writing about the lush green countryside of the European settings for these stories, inspired Disney through their gift of writing. Walt Disney also had a fascination with animals (from crickets in Pinocchio to lobsters in The Little Mermaid ), so much so that he produced a series of documentaries on the animal kingdom and nature, called True Life Adventures. Titles in this series included “Seals Island”, “In Beaver Valley”, and “The Living Desert”. An article on Walt Disney in a 1963 edition of Modern Mechanix magazine said that, “Walt’s early edict for… all the True Life Adventure pictures was to get the complete natural history of the animals with no sign of humans: no fences, car tracks, buildings, or telephone poles.”

Disney wasn’t only interested in portraying animals on film, but also conserving species and their environments for future generations. This is evident in the construction of the Tree of Life at Orlando, Florida’s Disney World Animal Kingdom sub-park. While the tree is fake (it consists of about 100,000 silk leaves sewn onto over 8,000 branches), it has carvings of numerous animals on it, allowing children to experience an African Safari with illustrated depictions of animals that may not be around for much longer.

The “Tree of Life” was drawn directly from the incredibly successful 1994 movie, The Lion King. In the movie, the tree is shown only a few times, where the mandrill Rafiki draws symbols of Simba when his life seems to be in danger.

Gail Krause says that, “… Rafiki is the wise ‘shaman’ of the animal community; he writes the image of the lost and then found king, Simba, on a central tree, making real for himself the ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’ of the true leaderan interesting parallel to the Jesus myth. The Disney company then created the park Animal Kingdom with a majestic Tree of Life…”.

The Tree of Life in The Lion King also serves as a marker for where Simba left his old life as heir to the King of the Jungle and his new life in exile with the feisty meerkat, Timon, and Pumbaa the rotund warthog. The fact that the Tree is in the middle of the desert where scarcely any animal roams signifies the neutrality of the Tree: the halfway point between the corrupt leadership of Scar and the carefree new life that Simba leads.

But the Tree of Life isn’t the only perennial woody plant in The Lion King. The other tree that acts as a signpost for where the action picks up is the almost half-dead, lone branch in the gorge. This tree is the framing point for the stampede that Simba gets caught up in; the stampede in which his father, Mufasa, is killed. It’s not a full, live tree, but its skeleton-like appearance is parallel to the dark, cold soul of Scar and his hyena followers, and the subsequent reign of darkness the animal kingdom is ruled by.

The Tree of Life shows that trees are not only markers for where certain actions will take place or where the central protagonist should turn, but they are somewhat characters in their own right. Trees are key characters/motifs in the Disney films Pocahontas, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, as they provide turning points or revelations in the story.

Mark I. Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust, says, “Providence will show up in the form of a fairy, wizard [or] talking willow tree,” if ever you should lose your way. Or rather, in Alice’s case, stumbling down the rabbit hole underneath the tree she falls asleep in is how she begins her wayward journey.

Pocahontas, the story of a Native American girl who promotes acceptance between white settlers and her own people, is the obvious example of a Disney film with a tree as an actual, personified character in Grandmother Willow. According to the Living Arts Originals website, “Willow tree symbolism includes magic, healing, inner vision and dreams… Forests are the abode for the nature spirits”. A lot of research probably went into the character of Grandmother Willow, as these classic Native American qualities of the tree are evident in her. She acts as Pocahontas’s “fairy godmother”. Although Grandmother Willow could be personified as any nationality, she is fittingly a Native American like Pocahontas and her people, because that’s who Pocahontas identifies with (as evident in the conflict between Pocahontas’s tribe and John Smith’s men). When Pocahontas brings John Smith to Grandmother Willow, she shows him her magic and opens up the Native American culture to him, and thereby the settlers, as Pocahontas did in reality many centuries ago. Grandmother Willow, using her virtues of inner vision and dreaming, encourages Pocahontas to follow her path, shown to her by the spinning arrow of John Smith’s compass, thus orchestrating great change in conflict between the “savages” and the whites.

Alice in Wonderland, the most eccentric of all Disney’s films, uses trees in a number of ways. Firstly, the tree in which Alice is studying in at the beginning of the story is the tree under which the white rabbit escapes, and she follows. A magic mushroom (perhaps a reflection of the author Lewis Carroll’s drug use?), makes Alice grow to the height of a tree, where a nosey pigeon refuses to believe she’s “just a little girl!”.

One image of the tree, or woods/forest, that rampant not only in Disney films, but many other contemporary movies, is the personification of the treetaking on human characteristics, such as eyes and arms, to give off a menacing vibe. In Alice in Wonderland, the Tulgey Woods’ trees observe Alice as eyes appear , which then turn out to be a gathering of characters with eyesducks with horns, flamingos with umbrella bodies, and glasses that seem to resemble the fake-nose-and-moustache disguise that children are fond of. Treebeard, in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, both text and film is another, non-Disney example. The forest in The Wizard of Oz comes to life and the trees throw their apples at Dorothy, Scarecrow and little Toto. If I listed the numerous other movies that show trees in this way, we’d be here all day.

But, they’re all derived from one Disney flick in particular: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The first ever feature length animated film was also one of the first to depict a forest coming to life in such a way, where the trees grow arms and eyes, and bark floating in the river turns into crocodiles! No doubt other Hollywood productions have used Snow White and Disney as inspiration, especially The Wizard of Oz, with it’s out-of-this-world plot and unmistakably Disney-esque characters.

Even before Snow White, though, was the Disney short animated film Flowers and Trees, shown in 1932, which won the first ever Academy Award for an animated short. This undoubtedly would have been the starting point for trees as more than just “trees”, not only in Disney, but in film in general.

If ever there was a documentary explaining all about the depiction of trees in Disney films, it’s Four Artists Paint One Tree, a special feature that can be accessed via the 2003 special edition DVD release of Sleeping Beauty. In the doco, Walt Disney narrates as four animators go out into the field to demonstrate how they would paint an old oak tree. The first artist, Walt Peregoy, views the tree as an architectural monument, and his finished painting is evidence of the animation of the backdrop of Sleeping Beauty. Josh Meador, an effects artist for Sleeping Beauty, references the Druids, who believed trees had personalities. Maybe he was a key artist in personifying trees and bringing them to life? The next painter, Eyvind Earle, is primarily interested in the trunk, and uses watercolours to fill in the fine detail. Finally, Marc Davis represents the tree as an explosion out of the earth, with branches spraying out from the body of the trunk. After watching this documentary, you can see which aspects of each artists tree, or their style of painting scenery, that has gone into creating Sleeping Beauty. Walt ends the documentary by paraphrasing the artist Robert Henri: “The great painter has something to say. He does not paint men, landscapes or furniture, but an idea.” This seems to be the consensus amongst not just Disney’s approach to filmmaking, but the studio’s approach to letting audiences believe what they want to believe (some would beg to differ on this point).

M. Lynne Bird backs this theory up in her article titled “Ecological Ambivalence in Neverland from The Little White Bird to Hook in the tome Wild Things: Children’s Culture and Ecocriticism. She discusses the idea that trees are just treesnature is just naturein Disney films, but it’s the children’s imaginations, and in turn, Walt Disney’s child-at-heart imagination that makes a tree something more, such as in the films mentioned above. She writes, “‘The Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there’… This mix drops nature and privileges both imagination and society. The island can only become real as children look for it.”

Though not a “tree” specifically, the Smoke Tree Ranch, Walt Disney’s holiday home in Palm Springs, California, was used as collateral in the funding of Disneyland. While it was hard for him to part with the ranch, it turns out Disney made the right choice: sacrificing a symbolic and sentimental place in his personal life to create a symbolic and sentimental place for millions of others.

Walt Disney was obviously a kid at heart, as can be seen in the tales he chose to adapt and bring to a worldwide audience. Tarzan’s Treehouse, from the movie Tarzan (and was also adapted from the tree house in Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson) and located in the Disneyland theme park as an attraction, and the creation of the Hangman’s Tree, the home of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, are more blatant examples of trees in the world of Walt Disney. Hangman’s Tree exemplifies everything a child could want in a tree house.

While, once again, trees are definitely not the first thing Disney-enthusiasts think of when sitting down to watch their favourite film, but the next time you do, keep an eye out for the trees: after all, that’s what a horticulturalist would do!

Elsewhere: [Modern Mechanix] The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney Part 1.

[MSMC] The Cipher: The Mythological Tree in Various Cultures.

[Living Arts Originals] Find Your Tree: The Deep-Rooted Symbolism of Trees.

[Google Books] Ecological Ambivalence in Neverland from The Little White Bird to Hook.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

After my Mick Foley rant last week, I’ve started reading his blog, Countdown to Lockdown, and I’m loving it. Here are some choice articles:

Remembering female pro-wrestling pioneer, Luna Vachon, who passed away on August 27 this year.

“That Time I Met… Tina Fey… and Alec Baldwin!”

“That Time I Met… President William Jefferson Clinton!” (I really love this one; some heart-warming stuff.)

“Mick’s Favourite Things: Top Ten Matches”, three of whichCactus Jack VS. Randy Orton at Backlash 2004 (above), Mankind VS. The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell in June, 1998, and Mick Foley VS. Edge in a Hardcore Match at WrestleMania XXII (that’s WrestleMania 22 in 2006 for you wrestling laymen)I 100% agree with.

In defence of Buffy’s whining.

“To the Teenage Boy in Your Life”:

“An important thing to remember is that girls are not from a different planet, nor are they even a different species. They’re just people, they’re just like boys, except with vulvas instead of penises.

“Mainly you need to remember this when you’re trying to figure out what a girl is thinking. See, if you didn’t know what a BOY was thinking, how would you go about finding out? You might ask him, right? The same goes for girls.”

I’m a bit behind the eight-ball on this one, as No Make-Up Week was a month ago, but Alle Malice’s guest post on Rabbit Write goes over the reasons “Why We Wear Make-Up”. I especially like this one:

“It makes me look good in photos. Almost everything we do now is documented by someone and posted in Facebook albums for the world to see, because if you aren’t having fun on Facebook, you aren’t really having fun. And if you aren’t pretty on the internet, you aren’t pretty in real life. Enter makeup.”

Nick Sylvester, on Riff City, discusses “How Kanye West’s Online Triumphs Have Eclipsed Kanye West”:

“Maybe there are people working with him… but I get the sense that Kanye is generating the [sic] lot of these ideas. I imagine he likes being in control of every aspect of the production, the medium being the message and so on. Online he is a wise fool, first playing into people’s perceptions of ‘Kanye West’, then off those very perceptions, sending himself up, pulling back his own veil… Despite many attempts, Kanye West is incapable of being parodied, largely because Kanye West has already figured out a way to be a parody of Kanye West.”

Much like Megan Fox in this New York Times Magazine article. Could I even go as far as to say that blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson has employed this strategy? I believe I could. And for that matter, Lindsay Lohan sending herself up on Funny or Die and promos for the MTV VMAs are along the same lines.

Sylvester goes on to say that “artists like Kanye West have to be ‘good at Twitter’ in order to put a dent in the zeitgeist.”

Furthermore,

“‘Nowadays rappers, they like bloggers,’ is what Swizz Beatz says… Slowly the work itself becomes secondary, less ambitious; slowly people becomes ‘really proud of their tweets’.”

Is it “The End of Men”?

Disney’s latest offering, Tangled, based on the story of Rapunzel, takes us back to a time when the Disney Princess reigned supreme, according to io9.

Feminist Themes examines Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” clip:

“… the objectification, glamorising of lesbian fetishism, and excessive girl-on-girl violence… [are aspects of the video that] feminist Gaga fans can try to justify… as another example of how she subversively turns what we usually find hot into something that leaves a nasty taste in our mouths and therefore makes a statement, but if any other artist (particularly any male artist) incorporated this much objectification and violence against women we would be outraged. Is it any different just because it’s a woman, or because it’s specifically Gaga?

“… What sets Gaga apart from other sexpot pop stars for me is that I just can’t imagine men being honestly turned on by hernot because she isn’t gorgeous (she is), but because she is so avant-garde, aggressive and self-driven which takes that arousal and turns it into something atypical, uncomfortable, and threatening.”

Also at Feminist Themes, the cause of the she-blogger in “Why I Blog”.

In other Gaga news, The Cavalier Daily reports that the University of Virginia is now running Lady Gaga classes! This sooo makes me want to re-enrol in university in a post-grad, transfer to UV, and take this kick-ass class!

The Daily Beast puts forth two differing opinions on Glee’s stereotypes: Andy Dehnart discusses the show’s “Harmful Simplicity”, while Thaddeus Russell applauds the walking stereotype that is Kurt Hummel, as “history tells us that those unafraid to be ‘too gay’ won far more freedomsfor all of usthan those who dressed the part of straights.”

Beautifully satiric The Frenemy reveals the recipe to “The Teen Romantic Comedy”, which “does not work for Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, or John Hughes films”, unfortunately. The truth about Disney Princes is also profiled, in which Eric from The Little Mermaid “wanted to kiss a girl who doesn’t speak words and doesn’t know how to use a fork. What the hell are you, caveman?”, while Mulan’s Captain Shang is in truth, a “gay liar” who made young, susceptible viewers the girls who have “crushes on a lot of her gay friends. [A] big Will & Grace fan.” Hey, that’s me!

Rachel Hills discusses intersectionality in feminism:

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘intersectionality’ is a way of talking about power and privilege that recognises that recognises that these things operate on multiple axes. People aren’t just female, or Black, or Asian, or straight, or working class, or trans, or a parent, or prone to depressioneveryone falls into a number of different categories that colours their experience of the world in specific ways. In the feminist context, it serves as a useful reminder that not all women have the same experiences, and calls into question the still dominant notion that the neutral ‘female’ experience is one that is white, heterosexual and middle-class.

“I’m also a fan because it just makes feminism a whole lot more interesting.”

Girl with a Satchel profiles Melissa Hoyer’s media career, which is a must-read for any budding wordsmith.

I am staunchly pro-choice when it comes to the abortion debate. In fact, I lean so far to the left that I’m borderline pro-abortion. (I’m sure that’ll ruffle some feathers!) But no matter what your feelings on the subject, MamaMia’s post, “The Couple Facing Jail Because They Tried To ‘Procure an Abortion’. Hello, Queensland? It’s 2010” is worth checking out.

Jezebel’s “5 Worst Mean (Little) Girls of All Time” includes Willy Wonka’s Veruca Salt and, from one of the most heart wrenching films of all time, A Little Princess, Lavinia, who looks a lot like modern-day mean girl, Angelina Pivarnick, from Jersey Shore.

“Why Strawberry Shortcake Was a Progressive Pioneer.”