You may remember my experience last week where I received the strange basket of apples with a cryptic note from Valerie. I ate one of the apples and fell into a deep sleep, after which I received the strangest ideas for how to improve Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and my editor posted them here.
Well, I decided to try a second apple from the basket. One bite of this next apple, and I passed out again. I woke up with the inspiration to rank some of Disney’s best cartoons. Get ready, because I guarantee you that you’ve never seen Disney’s films in this light…
8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Just picture it: a large, virile character roams the world, and though people see him as a bad guy, he’s really good inside, and in the end, he saves the day!
Am I talking about Wreck-It Ralph? Of course I am, but in reality I’m talking about the man whose life I’m convinced the movie is a metaphor for: our wonderful ally Vladimir Putin. Just think about it.
Last summer a friend of mine shared with me an article in which writer Jon Negroni explained his insane ideas regarding the connections between the films in the Pixar canon. I analyzed it and shared it here at PJ Lifestyle.
Well, it just so happens that Negroni is back – this time he has discovered the true identity of Andy’s mom in the Toy Story films. And this theory just might make some sense.
Negroni’s idea centers around Andy’s cowboy hat, which looks an awful lot like Woody’s hat, with one exception:
Notice anything weird about the hat? It looks nothing like the hat worn by his favorite toy, Woody. Why wouldn’t Andy wear a hat that was brown?
He makes the observation that we’ve seen the hat in one other place: Toy Story 2. Cowgirl Jessie wears an almost identical hat. The only difference? A white band above the brim. Jessie’s previous owner, Emily, had a similar, child-sized hat.
Emily, Jessie’s previous owner, wears that hat throughout the “When She Loved Me” sequence in Toy Story 2. The sequence clearly takes place in the 60s and 70s, as evidenced by the decoration and qualities of Emily’s things.
Negroni notes that, though Andy’s hat lacks the white band, there is a faded area on the hat exactly where a similar band could have been.
Are you tracking with me here? The perceptive Negroni notes another fascinating link between the first two films. Emily, Jessie’s first owner, looks an awful lot like a younger version of – you guessed it – Andy’s mom!
Amidst the vortex of impressions known as social media, some things fail to receive the attention they deserve. When I first saw the above picture of airport security confiscating a toy gun from a cowboy doll, I dismissed it as too absurd to be real. Turns out, as reported by National Review Online, it really happened:
Another gun-wielding toy has had its weapon seized by airport security. After a cowboy sock monkey Rooster Monkburn had his tiny harmless weapon seized last year, a Woody doll underwent similar probe at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Healthrow traveler John Hazen posted a picture of his son’s figurine to the social-media website Reddit on Tuesday showing a security official removing the doll’s gun. “At Heathrow, security just confiscated his ‘weapon,’ keep the world safe boys,” Hazen wrote on the site. The doll does not usually come armed with gun — it was an accessory the family added.
How could anyone be so stupid you ask? In a word, government.
Surely, people make dumb decisions in the market. However, the market quickly checks and balances dumb decisions by subjecting them to the individual judgment of competitors, consumers, and stakeholders – all free to associate or disassociate at will. Government, by contrast, deals in force. It mandates compliance instead of judgment. Ergo, when you tell a security officer to confiscate all guns, he’s going to confiscate ALL guns. Common sense be damned.
Let us imagine a world where government was constrained to its proper role of protecting individual rights. In such a world, functions like airport security would be private, as would airports, air traffic control, and the entire aviation sector. Competitors in that environment would remain incentivized to prevent terrorist attacks and other disasters which would adversely affect their business. It turns out having your customers die in your care does little for your brand.
Sensible security precautions would develop, tempered by the demands of consumers who would vote with their dollars on the best overall solution. No doubt, the security realized in a free market would require some assumption of risk on the part of consumers. But the flip side would be getting your kid’s cowboy doll on-board without triggering a federal case. Market judgment outperforms government edict in the development of best practices every time.
These days, a career that spans fifty-plus years at one company sounds like a pipe dream. The late John “Flossie Mae” Raiford delivered food to drive-in clients at The Varsity in Atlanta for 56 years. Earlier this year, one of Kroger’s executives retired after a half century with the grocery chain. Google “50 year career” and you’ll find plenty of charming and inspiring stories of long careers with a single employer. And then there’s Marty Sklar.
Sklar was still a fresh-faced college student and editor of UCLA’s Daily Bruin when Disney hired him to create a souvenir newspaper for their new park, Disneyland. Following his graduation in 1956, he joined Disney full time. He began writing speeches and articles for Walt Disney himself, and after Walt’s death, Sklar moved up the ranks in Imagineering until his retirement in 2009. Lucky for us, Sklar has finally told the story of his 53 year career at Disney in his new book Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms (also available for Kindle).
Dream It! Do It! reads as part memoir, part inspirational tome. Sklar writes in a conversational style – you can really imagine him telling the stories directly to you. He shares his memories of working with Walt Disney, including some stories most readers have never heard. He relates the ups and downs of working at Imagineering – the successes, the projects that required a second try, even the moments where language and cultural barriers presented challenges. In one particularly poignant moment, he expresses his anger at having to write Walt’s obituary the day he died rather than planning ahead when many at the studio knew Walt was terminally sick.
Everybody’s a geek about something culturally. For some it’s science fiction, while others may geek out over sports. For me, it’s Disney culture (don’t act so shocked), college sports, and Star Wars. But everybody has something that they’re a geek about.
Some geeks — and I’m using the term in a cultural light, rather than referring to nerds or dorks — go too far in their obsession. Some dress in elaborate costume for events like Comic Con or DragonCon, or even renaissance fairs. (Yes, I realize I’m stepping on some toes here.) Others show it off on their skin. Still others devote months of their time to devising theories on how a certain studio’s movies are interconnected. Meet Jon Negroni.
By day, Negroni manages social media and SEO for a non-profit organization, and he writes a blog for young professionals. And — bless his heart — he’s apparently a Pixar fan. Negroni has developed an elaborate theory explaining how all the features in the Pixar canon are related.
Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme.
Negroni’s timeline runs as follows:
- Brave: 14-15th centuries
- The Incredibles: 1950s-60s (…thought that’s up for debate, as we’ll see…)
- Toy Story: 1997-1998
- Toy Story 2: 1999
- Finding Nemo: 2003
- Ratatouille: 2007
- Toy Story 3: 2010
- Up: 2011-2016
- Cars, Cars 2: ~2100-2200
- Wall-E, ~2800-2900
- A Bug’s Life, ~2898-3000
- Monsters University, Monsters Inc., ~4500-5000
- …and all of it cycles back to Brave.
We live in an era of disposable pop culture. All around us we see vapid reality series, uninspired (and uninspiring) music, movies that are little more than retreads of other bad ideas, and starlets who are famous merely for being famous. Of course, this stuff is not necessarily bad in and of itself — in fact, mindless pop culture can make for some great “guilty pleasure” moments.
The truth is, when any form of entertainment achieves excellence, we notice. Television programs like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, music by artists such as Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown Band, and films like Lincoln and Les Miserables attract attention because they raise the bar in their genre.
The idea of excellence as something for which to strive goes back to the Bible. Jewish and Christian believers alike are aware of the admonishments in Scripture to give our all. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon advises:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
And the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Colosse:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Walt Disney felt the pull to achieve excellence, in part because his name was on every product the studio created. He once said, “Anything that has a Disney name to it is something we feel responsible for.” He instilled the value of excellence in his staff as well — he once hailed his staff as “the ones who insist on doing something better and better.” A sign on a construction wall from my last trip to Walt Disney World expresses this value.
Over the course of the next couple of pages, we’re going to take a look at how this value of excellence shows up throughout Disney culture.
Even while women devour the Twilight books and flock to the recent release of Breaking Dawn 2 most revile the series’ heroine Bella Swan. The savvy modern woman prefers the vampire-slaying Buffy Summers. As a fan of both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight franchises, I think that we have this partially backward and that the Buffy v. Bella arguments common on the web underscore dangerous assumptions about women. Feminists have co-opted Buffy and the female superheroes for the gender wars in order to perpetuate their illusion of no differences between men and women.
Conventional wisdom tells us that women can do anything men can. With rare exception owing to strength or stature, this is true. But we don’t always want to do what men do, and even if and when we do we have to account for our biology. Sometimes it is the strength and stature deficit, sometimes it is our heavier role in reproduction. The feminist intelligentsia thinks this unfair, so, couching their advice in terms of equality, they tell us to ignore biology. Accordingly, the female heroes who we admire today are the ones who work around reality.
It is great that we have heroes who happen to be women, but we mistake them as role models for womanhood. Five pop culture heroines to illustrate my point:
5. Hermione Granger, The Maligned Hero
Hermione helps Harry Potter figure out how to defeat the evil wizard Voldemort and, at great personal sacrifice, she accompanies Harry on his final quest.
As a role model for womanhood she is the best of this list. She shouldn’t even appear but for what we like about her. The oft-cited favorite Hermione part in the movies: when she punches Draco Malfoy.
Over eight films loaded with powerful women defying evil—Luna Lovegood, Molly Weasley, Lily Potter, Narcissa Malfoy—that inconsequential punch makes number six of the 50 greatest moments. What was a slap in the book was rewritten as the crowd-pleasing punch because we like it when a woman acts like a man, which is ironic considering the next most overrated heroine, Wonder Woman.
We go to movies presumably to enjoy a good story. Yes, the writing is important, as are the acting, cinematography, score, set design — all the myriad things that must work together in service of the story. They are but tools intended for a larger purpose. Of course, too often one or more tools fail or the filmmakers put too much emphasis on them and forget the story altogether.
That seems to be the case with Ice Age: Continental Drift, the fourth installment of the Ice Age franchise by Blue Sky Studios. Terrific computer animation in digital 3D renders crisp detail in the animals’ fur and performs a virtuoso dance of light and shadow on ice and water.
But the movie feels overstuffed with way too many barely developed characters. The story could easily have been cut by a third and its building blocks could have been more artfully arranged. The film feels workmanlike, adequate but lacking zest. While the earlier installments had the obligatory subtext about doing the right thing and the importance of working together, the lessons in Continental Drift feel forced. Yes, kids, it’s important to obey your parents, value your friends, and not get caught up in the wrong crowd — good lessons all, but they come with the subtlety of an elbow to the ribs.
As with the first three Ice Ages, there are plenty of sight gags and pratfalls along the way with the usual gross-out jokes. And as always, Scrat the proto rat is the best part of these stories, with his Gilligan-like ability to blow a sure thing and a single-mindedness that makes Wile E. Coyote look positively ambivalent.
Looks to be Toy Story meets Monster’s Inc. with John C. Reilly bringing to life a Donkey Kong-style video game villain who’s tired of being the bad guy.
Hat tip: Buzzfeed.
Updated with a corrected headline thanks to commenters smarter than me. This isn’t a Pixar movie. Like Tangled, it’s a Disney-branded film.