Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Top Five Disney Princes!

        The Disney princesses are some of my absolute favorite characters in all of Disney. I love everything about them, from their movies to their dresses and meeting them in the parks. Their princes are also fantastic. Now, this list has been made with only the love interests of the official Disney Princesses in mind, so no Hercules, Tarzan or Robin Hood unfortunately. This top five is not hard and fast for me, and coming up with it was pretty difficult, especially outside of my top three, but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, so let's get started!
5. Prince Charming
        I know that he isn't usually included with most people's favorites, but I've got a soft spot for Cinderella's prince. He's a guy who knows what he wants, and who won't take things like love lightly even to please his father. Maybe it's just me, but I've got respect for a guy who has every girl in a kingdom throwing themselves at him yet only pursues one. When Cinderella ran away, there was still a ballroom of eligible women who would have loved his attention, but rather than give them any thought he only wants to get her back. To me, he's determined and passionate, and those are great qualities. I think we can also gather that he's rather humble, as he obviously wasn't talking much about being a prince if Cinderella didn't even realize who he was after hours together. The guy is also a romantic. I would love to be danced around the beautiful grounds of a palace. Overall, we may not know him that well, but what we do know about Prince Charming is all good, so he deserves a spot in my top five (for now at least).
4. Prince Eric
       Eric is handsome and charming, of course, but what really sets him apart is his kindness. It's clear from the start that Eric is full of compassion. His interactions with Max alone get across his caring nature. Add to that the way he takes in Ariel and shows her around the kingdom, and you've got me hooked. Eric is one of the few princes in Disney who are born with their title but don't have an attitude about it. His benevolence and compassion are clearly reflected in the way he rules. Even though he wields power over Grimsby and Carlotta it's obvious that there's a lot of love among them, and he never abuses his power to put them down. (On a side note, Chef Louis still has a job at the end of the movie, so clearly the kindness extends to him too.) The bravery that Eric possesses also adds to his appeal. Whether it's saving Max from the fire or taking on Ursula, he doesn't back down when his loved ones are at stake. Overall, Prince Eric is an amazing guy, but I'm not sure I'd give up my voice for him.
3. Aladdin
       Over the course of his movie Aladdin more than proves that he really is a diamond in the rough. I'd argue that Aladdin's generosity is his best trait. He really tries his best to take care of other people, even if his ways of doing so aren't quite legal. Whether it's giving his bread to the little kids or getting Jasmine out of trouble, Aladdin uses every skill he has to make sure the people around him are cared for. He's also clever, constantly getting out of trouble and tricking Genie into granting wishes without actually having to wish for them. Now, he does get off course a bit while posing as Prince Ali, but he also realizes that and works to make amends afterward. Maybe it's just me, but I think that being able to admit when you're wrong is one of the best qualities that anyone can have. Having looked closer, it's obvious to me that Aladdin is no street-rat.
2. Prince Naveen
       At the start of The Princess and the Frog I certainly didn't think that I'd love Naveen, but his character development over the course of the film is some of the best that Disney has ever done. Naveen's journey from cocky, spoiled prince to the hardworking and compassionate man that he becomes is a joy to watch and absolutely buys him a spot on this list. Naveen, like Aladdin, must come to grips with the fact that he had been wrong in the past. His love for Tiana truly brings out the best in him. For someone who once turned to Dr. Facilier to make his life easier, his dedication to making Tiana's dreams come true is remarkable. One of my favorite sequences from any Disney film is when he prepares to, and then fails to, propose on the riverboat. It's a lovely thing to watch him transform from selfish to selfless. His suave, smooth talking ways are amazing, but they're nothing compared to that journey.
1. Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert
        Now I know that this is a pretty popular choice right now, but I believe that that's for a reason. Flynn is like every Disney prince rolled into one--he has the charm, the shady past, the compassionate heart, and the moral transformation, not to mention a great sense of humor.
Nothing beats the reveal of Flynn's real identity, except maybe the way that Eugene goes on to try to give Rapunzel the best day ever, and then to sacrifice himself to save her. He literally goes from stealing from Rapunzel to giving her everything, including his life. That's quite the transformation and it reveals what a loving and all around great guy Eugene is under all of that talk and cockiness. At the risk of being a bit extreme, I'd say that Disney will have a hard time ever topping Eugene Fitzherbert.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Inside Out // (A Very Late) Review

This post contains spoilers, be warned!
        I've been very excited for Inside Out ever since I first heard about it. It was a concept that I could get behind. I've always found emotions interesting and seeing them interact within someone's head sounded like the most intriguing thing to come to film in years. Pete Docter being named director also piqued my interest, given that he has directed two of my top three Pixar movies. Take that level of interest and add in superb reviews that heralded Inside Out as the best thing to ever come from Pixar and I had very high expectations for this movie. In retrospect, maybe too high.
       For me, the film was incredibly smart and original, however it failed on some basic story aspects, pace being a big one of those. The story seemed to drag at the start, as so much needed to be explained and built up for the story to even make sense. I'm not sure what Pixar could have done to fix this, but I'm sure that there's something. That particular problem continued for me throughout the rest of the movie as well, after Joy and Sadness embark on their journey. The slow pace made me just want to get moving, which probably hurt my sympathy for the characters, who I ended up not caring about as much as I should have. The only characters I really felt for were Sadness and Riley. From the start I was annoyed at Joy. Bing Bong, meanwhile, struck me as a villain. I've read that the animators wanted him to appear suspicious at first, to throw the audience off, and that may have worked too well for me. I was so suspicious of him that I never developed any positive feelings for Bing Bong, and so his sacrifice did not have as big of an impact on me as I'm sure it was supposed to.
        My major problem with the film is that I felt like they went in the direction of having Riley become depressed, but didn't actually commit to it. She went into feeling nothing only for a moment, and they never actually named depression as what that was. Of course it would have been difficult to deal with the topic of depression while keeping the film family friendly and entertaining for young children, but as someone who's struggled with that illness it felt cheap of Pixar to glance at it and have it serve as a plot point but only have minimal screen-time and mention. I was also left wondering if everyone goes through that sort of experience in order to feel complex emotions, or were Riley's emotions just not aware of how they were meant to function? Clearly they had guide books, and they had read them all, so surely if that information were included there they would have already known that. That is a question that will bug me for a very long time.
        All of that being said, the film was still fantastic. The concept is brilliant, as expected from Pixar, and all of the settings inside of Riley's head are beautiful and so, so smart. My favorite parts of the film were definitely whenever the various emotions were gathered and interacting. I was excited every time that we went back to check in with Anger, Disgust, and Fear and absolutely loved watching them attempt to keep Riley going. (Although I did feel that Disgust wasn't necessarily strictly disgust, as the social aspect seemed more like something that Fear should have dealt with.) I also really loved the interactions of Riley and her parents. Their family dynamic was fantastic, and that's something I wish we saw more of in film. Sadness was by far my favorite character. She was so complex and so well done, and the voice acting of Phyllis Smith was absolutely phenomenal.
         My absolute favorite scene, however, was when Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong enter Riley's abstract thoughts. It was a very brave thing for Pixar to veer so far away from the overall look of the film for that sequence, but the use of different art and animation styles was executed perfectly and created what I believe is one of the most original and daring scenes in animation.
        Clearly my emotions are mixed in regards to this film. There were many things that irritated me and still bother me when I think about them. I'm left wondering if maybe Pixar bit off more than they could chew this time around, picking a concept that perhaps needed a longer amount of screen time and a more mature target audience to excel. However, I'm also in awe of how creative and beautiful this film was. The story was still very touching and had very funny moments throughout. Overall, Inside Out was an A- when I expected an A+.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Disneyland's 24 Hour Celebration// May 22-23, 2015 // (A Very Late) Trip Report

        This past May was the first time that I've ever been able to attend a 24 hour event at a Disney park, so you can bet that I was not going to miss it. It turns out that I couldn't go for a full 24 hours, but my best friend Megan and I were there from 1:00 PM to 6:00 AM, and those 17 hours were some of the craziest I've ever had.
        May 22nd also happened to be the day that we had to move out of our dorm room, so that morning was spent loading up our cars and cleaning, and then making the 45 minute drive to our hotel on Harbor Boulevard. We settled into our room, each had a snack, and then headed for the park. We had tried to plan out some of what we wanted to do, but even with that preparation we were nervous things wouldn't go very well. As soon as we got onto Main Street, it was apparent that we should have been even more nervous.
So realistic.
        People were already lining up for the Paint the Night parade, with their blankets spread out across the vast majority of the route. We immediately went to get Fastpasses for Space Mountain, and got even more evidence of how crowded it was when the return time was already for 1:30 AM. With that on our minds, we rushed to get in line for the just refurbished and re-opened Matterhorn. The wait was somewhere around an hour and half, and I'm glad we did it to start the day because later on there was no way we'd have had the patience for it. Once we got into our bobsled and started our ascent, though, it was clear that the wait was worth it. The Matterhorn is one of my favorite rides, so I was more than a little skeptical of the changes, but just seeing that animation through the ice on the climb up the hill was enough to make me solidly a fan of the updates. The new figures of Harold were amazing too and the photo opportunity nearby was a perfect way to cap off that first leg of our day.
        At that point, we were both hungry and decided that it was now or never to go get the special macaroni pizza that was being served at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta in California Adventure. It was fantastic, so fantastic that I forgot to take a picture of it, but let me assure you, pizza topped with macaroni, bacon, and pesto is one of the most amazing things you could ever put into you mouth. Now, we felt pretty good about ourselves at this point, and as we headed to the front of the park so that we could go back to Disneyland. Once we were out of DCA, however, and in a giant line that wrapped around itself in the esplanade, we started to panic. They were only allowing reentries, and only ones who had been inside of Disneyland before 2:00 PM. We barely made it, but we did, and we couldn't even be mad about how crowded Main Street was.
        Taking note of how crowded the whole of Main Street was, though, we decided to abandon our plan of seeing the first showing of Paint the Night, and try for the the second one at 1 AM instead. We were still trying to figure out how we would see the fireworks as we headed off for Big Thunder Mountain. For the rest of the evening, we did rides, so many rides. The lines were surprisingly short, probably because everyone was already waiting for the parade and terrified to leave their spots.We rode Big Thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Jungle Cruise in just a couple of hours. Then we went to the 7:15 showing of Mickey and the Magical Map, the last showing of the day.
        Maybe it was because it was the last show, maybe it was because it was the start of the sixtieth anniversary, maybe it was because only people who love the show bothered to show up that day, but that showing of Mickey and the Magical Map was by far the most fun and magical that I've ever seen. Everyone, the crowd and cast, was so happy and energized. Everyone was singing and laughing and cheering. It's frankly indescribable just how joyful that half an hour was.
        After we left the theater, we did a grand tour of Fantasyland--well, of most everything in Fantasyland that isn't a dark ride, anyway. We hit the tea cups, we soared with Dumbo, and we rode our white horses around the carousel. All of this was at dusk, and it truly felt like there was pixie dust in the air.
        The panic was starting to set in, though, that we still hadn't figured out how we would see the fireworks. We desperately wanted to see them on Main Street and take in the new projections and everything else that came with the new show, but given that the parade would be there we didn't know how we would do it. In this confusion we got in another ride on Big Thunder, and then wandered into the Emporium. We figured that, if nothing else, we could shop. We took advantage of the slow crowds inside of the store to wander and actually found a pretty decent deal on some 60th anniversary totes. The parade started up outside, and we stood by one of the doors, half admiring merchandise and half watching the show over the heads of the people on the sidewalk outside. While there, we figured out what we would do. We stood by that doorway for the entirety of the parade, and as soon as it was over, we joined the crowd rushing into the middle of Main Street. Our view was surprisingly good, and all we had to do was wait.
        The Disneyland Forever Fireworks show is my favorite thing about the Diamond Celebration. The music selections are fantastic and flow together so well. The songs come from throughout Disney's history and even included some that I never would have guessed. (That Nemo sequence!?!) Standing in that crowd and singing along with everyone was spectacular, and tiring, and maybe made it okay that after the last pyrotechnic Megan and I immediately rushed to the sidewalk and claimed our spot for the second showing of Paint the Night, which would start three hours later.
        During our wait for the parade, we enjoyed coffee and humorous Cast Members, both of which were greatly needed. It also gave me a chance to take some artsy pictures of our Space Mountain Fastpasses, because how often do you get a Fastpass marked for 1:30 AM?
        I'm not going to lie, Paint the Night is not my favorite, it seems a little too jumbled and the style of many things (like Belle's float) aren't really up my alley, but in that moment, after waiting for hours and having had a very stressful and busy day, it was fun. It was just the kind of release we needed. Also, it happens to feature my three favorite princess all as a part of one float, so it gets bonus points for that. Our experience of Paint the Night was also special because we witnessed it have to stop, as Goofy, true to form, dropped his paint brush and had to wait for a Cast Member to retrieve it. In the end, it took them somewhere around ten minutes to do so, so we got Goofy hamming it up right in front of us for an extra hunk of time.
         The rest of the night/day were kind of a blur. We went to Space Mountain, adventured with Indiana Jones, and got pastries at the Jolly Holiday. One of the things that we definitely wanted to do during our 24 hours was meet one of the big 5 in their pajamas. We headed over to Toon Town and got in line for Minnie. What then ensued was a monstrous wait that nearly broke us. I never like to complain about CMs, they have very hard jobs especially during special events like that. However, the two who were supposed to be handling Minnie's meet weren't doing their job, and so what should have been a forty minute wait, was more like two hours. They allowed everyone from large groups to take pictures individually and to take their own separate pictures of just Minnie (who rotated with Donald and Daisy at one point). It was nightmarish. The end picture was okay, but they had allowed it to go on for so long that when it was finally our turn, Megan and I each had rushed experiences with hardly any interaction.
        From there we went for a delirious ride through Storybookland on the canal boats, and then one last spin on the carousel. With about an hour and half until six, and with the sun slowly rising, we went over to New Orleans Square and rode Pirates for our last attraction. Then, we took a few last pictures, and then went to Town Square for our send off.
        Later, after going back to our hotel and each passing out for most of the day, Megan and I heard about the nightmare stories of those who never even got to go into Disneyland that day. I feel so grateful that I was able to go to the 24 hour celebration, that I got to be there for the kick off of the Diamond Celebration, and that I got to do it all with my best friend. There were many things that I wish I could change about that trip, but also loads of memories that I will fondly remember forever. All in all, it was a pretty great way to spend 17 hours of my life.