Monday, June 10, 2019

Is Disney Being Smart?

Those of us who grew up watching the classic Disney animated films ask ourselves why they keep putting out live action remakes. Sometimes they're fun, but wasn't it more fun when, for instance, the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out? (That was based on a ride, but it still counts as original.) We decide that, well, they know we'll go to see the movies, anyway, so that's why they keep making them.

But I just realized that it may be something else: they're keeping the beloved stories relevant.

Since we grew up on the old films, we think they're relevant. And they are. But anyone who spends time around kids or people who have kids knows that the reality is usually different. I remember Jennifer Oakes on YouTube mentioning that her children don't like the classically animated films--they only like the newer animation. And I know someone who's said the same thing. So that cuts out Snow White, Bambi, Peter PanCinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, etc. Maybe when they're older they'll rediscover the old classics, but kids these days are watching the new stuff: Tangled, Frozen, and Coco. And yet because Disney isn't just a film studio, they want to find a way to keep kids' interest in the old classics.

They can certainly use Frozen and Coco in the theme parks and for merch. But they still want to keep all that they've built up on the old stories. So how do they do that? By making new films that are a little different but mainly still just the same thing, reworked in a new way that children today will watch today. They don't need to win over the parents to love the new movies and say they're the best thing ever: if the parents just buy a copy at the store when it becomes a low-priced DVD or they turn the movie on at home through Netflix, then the kids are the ones getting to see the story and getting to form a connection with it just like their parents did before them with the animated films. They'll both love the same story, even if they made a connection to it from a different source.

It makes enough sense that I'm sure Disney must have been thinking this all along and I don't know why I only just realized it now. (That is, maybe I had to a lighter degree, but I hadn't quite made that connection with the whole kids-don't-like-old-animation thing before.)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Wild Ophelia: Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

It's complicated, my opinion on strawberries. Usually I can only eat a little at a time, in slices (that is, small, thin bites), or I'll put them in the blender if I'm going to be able to finish off a basket by myself while they're still fresh. And while chocolate dipped strawberries are supposed to be such a luxury, I find them anything but. Usually they're quite bad strawberries without any flavor and quite bad chocolate full of oil that go into chocolate dipped strawberries--not luxury at all. But the concept is nice, I suppose.

This second bar from Wild Ophelia is the Chocolate Dipped Strawberry; it comes with that same fun, cute, Instagram-esque look for the younguns. It fits especially well with the concept of chocolate covered strawberries, too, eh?

Inside, the chocolate smells like chocolate and like strawberry, like in a shake or a spread or something of that sort. It has that intoxicating, vanilla, confection tone to it.

And the flavor once more, like with the Bananas Foster bar from Gnaw a couple months ago, reminds me of Duvalin candy (the Mexican candy that's a creamy paste in a little tray with a plastic spoon). Creamy chocolate and strawberry flavor. Only, you know, a little more real. There are pieces of strawberry in here, which do mess with the texture somewhat (though that might be mainly because I'm thinking of Duvalin). But they're quite tiny and only affect texture in a minuscule way, so they're acceptable. They're freeze-dried, though their small size means that they don't give that usual freeze-dried texture, which is appreciated. They start releasing most of their strawberry flavor towards the end, as the chocolate fades and they're able to let their specific flavor come through.

The chocolate has that hint at rich milk chocolate, but mainly it's all creamy and chocolate and strawberry. Duvalin up a notch (or a few notches, honestly, why do I say I dislike Nutella because of cheapness but I like Duvalin? I'm strange). It tastes just like the packaging looks: cute and fun. An extremely edible chocolate confection in a chocolate bar.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Shifting Sands

In dark, there is light.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isaiah 9:2. You are cared for.

In fear, there is hope.

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9. You are never alone.

Sometimes life is like shifting sands. You will never be one thing forever. Your mood will change. Your perspective will change. Your circumstances will change. Sometimes you will be happy and sometimes you will be sad. Sometimes you will soar, and sometimes life will be rough. But try to remember that all of this will shift. So when sometimes you can't see past a haze, just remember that it's just a haze caused by events or even chemicals . . . and it, too, will shift. I don't mean to say that things will get better; I mean that things will shift to a different angle and then back and then to a new place and then back again.

Sometimes remembering that is all can do until we're ready to start moving back into positivity.

"Light House" by The Word Alive can start to set the stage, start working you in. And then "My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective brings your focus back to what the light really does mean, to what stays constant through the shifting scenes.

Monday, June 3, 2019


While my deeper investment with Beauty and the Beast (both the 1991 film and the story in general) probably increased my criticism of that live-action remake, I don't have the same connection with the 1992 film. In fact, I really didn't have any memories of watching it growing up--so I really didn't see it until college. That makes watching a live-action remake easier, I'm sure.

As far as the live-action remakes of the princess films go, Aladdin seemed to settle on the ground that Beauty and the Beast was unable to. Beauty and the Beast was like they were just recreating scenes--and not as well--and with additional scenes that changed the pacing or theme too much to go along with the rest of it. (Cinderella, by the way, I thought was wonderful--there they did a subtle tweaking that adjusted the plot/theme just slightly to modernize it.) Aladdin kept the familiar things like the songs or certain moments but did everything different--and to a different theme.

We know that it's all going to be different not from the Genie story framing but from meeting Jasmine right away in the marketplace. We see her first from Aladdin's perspective, which is fitting because the film is named for him, after all. So we see the events of the story unfold differently than they do in the animated version.

And they did a great job at modernizing the theme here, too. Less subtle than with Cinderella, here it was a complete reworking. One of the things I've criticized about the animated film is its reliance on the same old marriage plot, despite being a modern film. So here they just reworked that and made the point being rulership of the kingdom. Jasmine has to marry because she can't be sultan. Her words in the film focus not on wanting to marry for love but on her love for her kingdom. And the final "success" is her father making her sultan. As sultan, she can choose to marry who she loves (Aladdin), but that becomes secondary. It is more important for Jasmine to have her place than for her to marry Aladdin.

They also more greatly stressed Aladdin's character here. Yet they also managed to do this without overdoing it. They didn't make him this greater-than-life, perfect man. He's just a guy. He does some nice things and he does some selfish things and he does some awkward things. He's just a guy, but a good guy. And he went along this journey with his wishes, where he had the opportunity to fall in with temptation but in the end he does honor her values and relationships by choosing to free Genie.

Genie. I don't like Will Smith's vocals for the opening "Arabian Nights," but his style fit well for Genie's songs. For these songs, they also found a way to make them feel live-action with CG and not just like animated sequences in a live-action film (looking at you, "Be Our Guest," in the aforementioned other film). So it all worked. Speaking of music, I didn't care for Jasmine's new songs. One, because there were all of those shifts to keep the story from Aladdin's perspectives--yet the songs stressed Jasmine's perspective. Two, because they felt too staged even for a Disney film. In fact, this would be a good time to mention that overall this film felt much like watching a better-than-usual, bigger budget, made-for-TV movie. It had that cloying quality to it. Not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

The use of dance was great, though. They went for almost a 1950's or 1960's era musical style, with all of the grand choreography. If you're going to make a musical, right? (And maybe this style was also why those songs where Jasmine was just walking towards the camera and singing felt out of place with the rest of it all.)

So it was an entertaining movie to watch. Enjoyable, family film. I wouldn't call it anything more than that--but that's okay.