Frozen II Review

Frozen II movie posterSynopsis
When the spirits force the people out of Arendelle, Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven venture to the Enchanted Forest to settle the spirits.

Review
Back in 2013, Frozen became a phenomenon. Children everywhere dressed up as Anna and even more dressed up as Anna’s sister Elsa. It seemed you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “Let it Go.” I’m man enough to admit that I got swept up in the craze as well. It was no surprise that a sequel was announced, especially given Disney has had more of an eye towards making theatrical sequels to their films as of late. Given how much I enjoyed Frozen, I was excited to see what directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck had in store for Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Kirstoff in the sequel. Despite my high expectations, Frozen II blew them away.

Easily the stand-out feature of Frozen was the original songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The songwriting couple returns for the sequel and once more they knock it out of the park! Idina Menzel again demonstrates how much of a powerhouse singer she is. “Into the Unknown” is bound to become this film’s “Let it Go” but “Show Yourself,” Menzel’s duet with Evan Rachel Wood, should not be ignored either. Jonathan Groff didn’t get much room to flex his singing chops in the last film but that was remedied this time around. Besides having a small part in the ensemble song “Some Things Never Change,” he gets his own song in “Lost in the Woods,” which is presented in a boy band-esque way that had me laughing uncontrollably. And of course Kristen Bell and Josh Gad have their songs as well, so no one is left out.

Olaf (Gad) provided much (not all but a lot) of the comedy from the previous film. While Olaf still functions as the comedic relief, and even though he does have some of the funnier moments of this film, it feels like the humor is spread out more evenly throughout the cast. This makes the comedy feel more organic. Anna, Kristoff, and many of the new characters all get a few laughs in. Two new characters, Lieutenant Mattias, voiced wonderfully by Sterling K. Brown, and Ryder, voiced by Jason Ritter, aren’t on the screen much but they each have a handful of memorable moments that help them stand out in this sequel.

Frozen II is unsurprisingly done in an animation style very similar to that of Frozen. However, everything just looks… better. Similar but better. The character models look better and feel like they have more expression, Elsa’s ice powers look better and seriously jaw-dropping at moments, the environments look better and almost life-like. Just like most of the last film is spent in the snow, most of this film is spent in the Enchanted Forest, and the Forest look absolutely stunning. If you’ve ever been in the woods, particularly during the autumn months, you’ll know how vivid it can be, with a wide range of colors and textures. This film captures all of that in great detail. From the various colors of the leaves to the greens of the grass and moss to the grays of rocks and to the clear blue streams. Once again, the Disney animation studio has outdone themselves.

Every sequel should build on and expand the world from the film(s) before it and continue to evolve the characters. Both sisters grow considerably. Elsa’s journey takes her on a path of discovery about her powers and herself more so than the previous film. At the end of Frozen, she learns to embrace her powers and that they are not something to be feared. Throughout this movie, she embraces her powers even more. Of the two, Anna displays the most change and growth. I don’t want to spoil anything but she goes through a dramatic change that is perfect for her character and will serve as an inspiration for many young children. When we meet Olaf at the beginning, he has begin questioning the world in a more mature way than his more innocent and naive self of the last film. It’s played for comedy but is exciting to watch. As for Kristoff, we get to see how his feelings for Anna have deepened but it feels like his character does not quite have as drastic an arc as some of the other characters.

Out of everything I have talked about up to this point, I think what I appreciate most about this film is how well it rounds out and completes the story of Frozen. As I just talked about, the two central sisters go through tremendous character growth, especially if we look at where they started in Frozen. It’s awe-inspiring how much the writers were able to accomplish in just two films. While the movie could potentially have a threequel (even if Disney decided to actually make a third theatrical film for one of their animated franchises), I feel like the story is complete enough that a third outing is not needed nor would it be necessary.

I thought Frozen II was GOOD 🙂 Despite all my positive comments, there are still a few flaws that can be found. However, those are minor compared to everything else I enjoyed in this film. There is a larger sense of adventure this time around and even more excitement than Frozen. While I usually feel most Disney animated films do not require sequels, this is an instance where I am extremely glad this sequel was made. Building on where the characters ended in the previous movie, this movie expands on them even further. Where Frozen II really shines is when it’s taken as a whole with Frozen. Together, they tell a complete and complementary story, making both films better in the process.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chris Buck – Director / Story
Jenifer Lee – Director / Screenplay / Story
Marc Smith – Story
Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Story / Original Songs
Robert Lopez – Story / Original Songs
Christophe Beck – Composer

Idina Menzel – Elsa (voice)
Kristen Bell – Anna (voice)
Josh Gad – Olaf (voice)
Jonathan Groff – Kristoff (voice)
Evan Rachel Wood – Queen Iduna (voice)
Alfred Molina – King Agnarr (voice)
Sterling K. Brown – Lieutenant Mattias (voice)
Martha Plimpton – Yelana (voice)
Jason Ritter – Ryder (voice)
Rachel Matthews – Honeymaren (voice)
Jeremy Sisto – King Runeard (voice)
Ciaran Hinds – Pabbie (voice)
Alan Tudyk – Northuldra Leader (voice)
Mattea Conforti – Young Elsa (voice)
Hadley Gannaway – Young Ana (voice)
Aurora – The Voice (voice)

Aladdin (2019) Review

Aladdin movie posterSynopsis
With the help of the magical Genie of the lamp (Will Smith), Aladdin (Mena Massoud) becomes a prince to impress Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Meanwhile, the royal vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is also trying to get his hand’s on the magic lamp to use Genie’s magic for his own nefarious purposes.

Review
I’ve been feeling conflicted about these live-action remakes Disney has been releasing these last few years and plan to release in the foreseeable future. On one hand, I enjoy seeing these wonderful animated classics realized and interpreted into live-action versions of themselves. On the other, most of them are so beloved that it will be hard to top the originals for most audiences. For me, I grew up on the 1992 Aladdin, and is so ingrained in my history as a cinefile that I highly doubted this remake would do anything to surpass it. However, not one to dismiss a film before I watch it, I went into the theater with an open mind and ended up leaving pleased.

One thing that Disney has been nailing (mostly anyway) about these remakes are the leads. Firstly, Naomi Scott is absolutely stunning as Princess Jasmine. She updates the character to be more than just a damsel looking to escape the confines of the palace. Scott’s Jasmine is confident and determined, characteristics seen in her animated counterpart but Scott takes that foundation and elevates Jasmine to whole new heights. Her song, “Speechless,” perfectly captures Jasmine’s spirit and is nailed by Scott. “Speechless” is bound to become a classic Disney song belted at the top of their lungs by many.

The titular character is played by Mena Massoud. While he doesn’t capture the same spirit of his character the same way Scott captured the character of hers, Massoud plays the part well; he captures the charm of Aladdin well enough. He also has good chemistry with his co-stars, especially Scott and Will Smith. I’d say his biggest weakness is he doesn’t have the same singing chops as Scott or Smith. Songs like “One Jump Ahead” or his parts in “A Whole New World” lack the same energy of Brad Kane, Aladdin’s singing voice actor in the animated version.

Leading up to this film’s release, there had been a lot of talk as Will Smith as Genie. Robin Williams famously voiced Genie in the animated version and brought his unique energy and comedy to the character. Smith smartly didn’t try to emulate Williams. Instead, he played Genie in a very Will Smith way, creating a different kind of Genie that worked within the context of the film. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that Smith doesn’t become the characters, the characters become Smith. Smith’s Genie is still larger-than-life and zany but doesn’t have the pizzazz of Williams’ Genie. Instead, Smith’s Genie is infused with Smith’s hip-hop and brand of comedy you’ve come to know and love over the years. While it garnered some criticism when he was announced to be playing the character, Smith’s Genie, like Williams’ before him, is one of the most entertaining and exciting aspects of this film.

I don’t bring up a film’s production design much in my reviews but dammit was this film gorgeous. The streets of Agrabah were filled with all sorts of vivid colors. Most of the time here is spent following Aladdin as he travels and runs through it. Another viewing just to pick out more details in the streets and bazaars would be worth it. Then the palace is even more extravagant. The architecture and set design is unlike any other. Last but not least are the costumes. Like the rest of Agrabah, they are bright and lavish. Jasmine’s outfits in particular are dazzling and truly fitting of a princess.

As for the film’s villain, Jafar left me wanting. Marwan Kenzari wasn’t bad in the role, he just wasn’t the right fit for it. He doesn’t have the menace the animated Jafar is known for. Like Jasmine, Jafar’s backstory and character was expanded on but unlike Jasmine, his changes don’t add much to the character, only seeming have been added to make a scene in the latter part of the film work better. Kenzari’s Jafar simply lacked the iconography that made the animated Jafar such a great villain.

Like the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and as this year’s The Lion King live-action remake appears to, Aladdin follows the animated source material pretty closely. Jasmine and Jafar are given more backstory and Genie gets his own love interest in Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia, played by the humorous Nasim Pedrad, but if you’ve seen the Disney Renaissance version, then you’ll know exactly every story beat and exactly how the story plays out.

I’ve noticed a trend in these Disney live-action remakes: remakes of older films, such as Dumbo or The Jungle Book, don’t stick so closely to the story of the animated versions they are remaking. But for remakes of more recent films, such as Beauty and the Beast and this, they stay more faithful the the characters and story. I’ve said that for a remake to justify its existence, it needs to provide something new, either with the characters, story, or both. For example, Dumbo, tried to tell a similar but fairly different story as the 1941 Dumbo, or Maleficent told the story of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s perspective. As my feelings on these vary, at least they did enough to warrant their presence. Aladdin, while enjoyable, doesn’t do enough to properly answer the question “why?”

I thought Aladdin was GOOD 🙂 I had mixed feelings about one of my favorite Disney animated movies being remade but I went in hoping for the best nonetheless. Even though it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the 1992 animated classic, this film still manages to be entertaining. And really, for a remake of a film that is so dear to me, that’s the least I could have hoped for.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Guy Ritchie – Director / Screenplay
John August – Screenplay
Alan Menken – Composer
Benj Pasek – Lyricist
Justin Paul – Lyricist

Mena Massoud – Aladdin
Naomi Scott – Jasmine
Will Smith – Genie
Marwan Kenzari – Jafar
Navid Negahban – Sultan
Nasim Pedrad – Dalia
Numan Acar – Hakim
Alan Tudyk – Iago (voice)
Frank Welker – Cave of Wonders (voice)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
Disney is currently going through a phase of remaking its animated films as live action films.  There have been a few of their lesser (although no less loved) classics already made and now they are stepping up to remake one of their most popular films, one that even holds the honor of being the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Disney’s previous live action remakes have gone in several different directions.  Maleficent retold Sleeping Beauty’s tale from the titular fairy’s point of view, whereas last year’s The Jungle Book, told a similar story to their 1967 classic while incorporating more of the original book’s source material, making it feel new yet familiar.  Where does Beauty and The Beast stand? Well, knowing that their Disney Renaissance film is such a well known and well loved film, it follows very closely to the original. Maybe a little too close.

Beauty and the Beast‘s biggest strength comes from its cast.  Emma Watson, to no surprise, is an absolute gem.  Her Belle is every bit as gentle yet strong as her animated predecessor.  Watson mentioned many times in interviews that Belle means a lot to her on a personal level and that love for the character really shines through.  Not only that, she has great chemistry with Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, which seems like a silly thing to say since Beast is a CGI character. However, Stevens’ emotion is still felt through the computer animation, leading to several touching moments throughout the film.

Besides Watson as Belle and Stevens as Beast, I thought the other characters were well cast also.  Luke Evans’ experience in theater made him a perfect fit as Gaston.  He brings the same charisma we’ve come to expect from his animated counterpart.  Josh Gad’s short and stout stature fit the character of LeFou perfectly, and I’m sure his experience as Frozen’s Olaf helped with the musical numbers as well. Kevin Kline was a more composed, less village-crazy-man incarnation of Maurice, Belle’s father, than the 1991 version.  Ian McKellen embodied the character of Cogsworth flawlessly. While Ewan McGregor’s French accent is a little dodgy, it never bothered me too much and he was still fun.

What surprised me the most about this film was how humorous it was! The original had plenty of laughs, sure, but I don’t remember it for its comedy.  This time, however, there were multiple times the entire theater would burst out laughing.  It definitely kept the mood light.

The set and costume design for this movie undeniably gorgeous. The majority of this film takes place within Beast’s castle and the ornate designs and decorations give it a breathtaking appearance. Everything is extremely detailed and well thought out and designed. It all deserves some recognition, from the castle’s furniture and stone towers, to the characters’ 18th century outfits, even character designs for the living objects, such as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.

My biggest flaw with Beauty and the Beast is that it doesn’t expand on, or do anything new with, the 1991 classic. Instead, what it does do is fill in and clean up the story.  For example, Gaston is painted in more of a villainous light, Belle’s family is given more of a background, the movie’s timeline is tightened, and more is revealed about the Enchantress’ spell. Disney’s other live-action remakes they have done so far have each told their own story using characters we were acquainted with, albeit with varying success.  This film, on the other hand, hits the exact same beats and the characters go through the same motions as before.  In essence, all this film is what the 1991 Beauty and the Beast would look like with live actors.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GOOD 🙂 If you are a fan of the Disney Renaissance classic, you will more than likely enjoy this remake since it follows it very closely.  However, that is also its biggest weakness, in that it simply fills in some story points but never does anything wholly original.  It does make up for it though, with fantastic casting all around and great chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bill Condon – Director
Stephen Chbosky – Screenplay
Evan Spiliotopoulos – Screenplay
Alan Menkin – Composer

Emma Watson – Belle
Dan Stevens – Beast
Luke Evans – Gaston
Josh Gad – LeFou
Kevin Kline – Maurice
Ewan McGregor – Lumiere
Ian McKellen – Cogsworth
Emma Thompson – Mrs. Potts
Nathan Mack – Chip
Audra McDonald – Madame Garderobe
Stanley Tucci – Maestro Cadenza
Gugu Mbatha- Raw – Plumette
Rita Davies – Old Woman
Hattie Morahan – Agathe / Enchantress

Disney and a Beer: Beauty and the Beast

The Beer
Palmetto Pale Ale – This is an American pale ale that I picked up in Charleston, South Carolina. The first time I tried it, I wasn’t a huge fan but I think it was the food I paired it with because very time I have drunk it after that, I have liked it more and more. It’s pretty strong on the hops but there is a little bit of orange taste to balance it out. Verdict: Enjoyed it.

The Movie

Beauty and the Beast movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Paige O’Hara (voice)) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Robby Benson (voice)). The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
I have expressed numerous times my love for the Disney Renaissance films. When I was younger, I had Beauty and the Beast on VHS but I did not watch it nearly as much as I did some of the other films from the era, like Aladdin or The Lion King. I think that was because it is a “princess” movie and I was more interested in movies with male main characters. In any case, over the years as I have watched it, I have grown to appreciate it much more.

The main reason why Beauty and the Beast is so popular is because of Belle. Her character is so well written and developed. She isn’t like any of the previous Disney princesses. A defining characteristic of the Disney Renaissance is how the princesses (or women in general) were portrayed. Starting with The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel, the women are less focused on finding a husband for finding a husband’s sake and more on pursuing their dreams and passions and simply being themselves. Belle likes to read, she has a vivid imagination, she is adventurous, she helps her father with his inventions, and she has dreams of her own that do not fit in with the others in her village. She is one of the first princesses to feel fully developed and that her happily ever after came from the result of her actions, not the actions of the prince.

To go along with Belle, Gaston is not a typical antagonist, at least in appearance. He is a physical embodiment of what this movie, and Disney in general at that time, is trying to move away from. He has similar features to what you would expect from the typical Disney prince. He’s tall, muscular, has a strong chin, and is pursuing the most beautiful girl around for her hand in marriage. But this is the movie’s villain, not the apple of Belle’s eye; This is the guy we are supposed to be rooting against but he looks like the love interest we are typically used to root for. Gaston’s actions and personality part of the movie’s message about judging a person’s characteristics from their appearance. He is handsome on the outside but a beast on the inside.

On the flip side of Gaston is the Beast. Unlike Gaston, his physical appearance is hideous, more fitting of a typical villain than love interest. This is what really pushes the film’s story and message forward. Belle isn’t quick to judge the prince on his appearance or beastly attitude. Instead, she see’s the good in him and works to bring that out of him so he can see for himself that his looks do not define him.

The townsfolk and mob are a third part to the movie’s message about not keeping an open mind and judging others quickly. They follow Gaston, the towns hero despite having a narrow and nasty attitude, and fear the Beast, although they know nothing about him. There is a lyric in “The Mob Song” that perfectly sums it up: “We don’t like / What we don’t understand / In fact it scares us / And this monster is mysterious at least.” Their fear is used by Gaston to lead the crowd into attacking the Beast, using them towards killing the Beast in an effort to still try and win Belle’s heart. Their suspicions and inability to think for themselves allowed them to be easily manipulated.

Speaking of “The Mob Song,” Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman work together (in what would be Ashman’s final film before passing away) to create the score and songs. And once again, it is absolutely wonderful. My personal favorite is “Be Our Guest” but “Belle” and “Gaston” are just as catchy and do a phenomenal job of character building. Of course, you can’t talk about this movie without talking about its title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” easily one of Disney’s most popular ballads. I’ve heard it at weddings, dances, and our high school band often played it for homecoming. It is a very moving and romantic song that has become the definition of a timeless classic.

The art style of Beauty and the Beast looks like something out of a picture book. The colors are bright and vivid, especially during the opening prologue. Even when the colors are more muted, like in the woods, there is still a vibrancy to them. The picture book feel reminds me a lot of Sleeping Beauty where everything just pops off the screen.

This movie is chock full of fun supporting characters. My favorite, hands down, is Lumiere and Cogsworth, voiced by Jerry Orbach and David Ogden Stiers respectively, the first two enchanted inhabitants Belle meets after entering the castle. Although they may be animated, they are just as great as any comedy duo in other movies. Other great characters are the motherly Mrs. Potts, voiced by the sweet Angela Lansbury, and her son Chip, voiced by Bradley Pierce, and the wardrobe in Belle’s room in the castle, voice by the energetic Jo Anne Worley.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GREAT 😀 It is not hard to see why this became the first animated film to be nominated for a best picture Academy Award. Belle is a strong heroine and the movie’s message about not judging others quickly and letting fear blind you is enduring. Often referred to as the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast is a special film that has been loved for over twenty-five years and will remain a beloved favorite for another twenty-five and more.

Favorite Quote
Beast: I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I want to do something for her! But what?
Cogsworth: Well, there’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.

Trivia
Angela Lansbury, the voice of Mrs. Potts, was unsure of her singing ability and thought that another character might be better suited to sing the song “Beauty and the Beast.” The directors convinced her to record it anyway in case nothing else worked out. She sang the version that made it into the movie in one take.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gary Trousdale – Director
Kirk Wise – Director
Linda Woolverton – Screenplay
Brenda Chapman – Story
Chris Sanders – Story
Burny Mattinson – Story
Kevin Harkey – Story
Brian Pimental – Story
Bruce Woodside – Story
Joe Ranft – Story
Tom Ellery – Story
Kelly Asbury – Story
Robert Lence – Story
Alan Menkin – Composer
Howard Ashman – Lyricist

Paige O’Hara – Belle (voice)
Robby Benson – Beast (voice)
Richard White – Gaston (voice)
Jesse Corti – Lefou (voice)
Jerry Orbach – Lumiere (voice)
David Ogden Stiers – Cogsworth / Narrator (voice)
Angela Lansbury – Mrs. Potts (voice)
Bradley Pierce – Chip (voice)
Rex Everhart – Maurice (voice)
Tony Jay – Monsieur D’Arque (voice)

Moana Review

Moana movie posterSynopsis
On the island of Motunui, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho (voice)) is chosen by the ocean to receive the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess. When a curse caused by the missing heart reaches Motunui, Moana sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson (voice)) and return the heart to its rightful place to lift the curse.

Review
With Zootopia having been released earlier this year, Moana marks the first time since 2002 that Disney has released two animated feature films the same year (Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet were that year for those who are curious). And man, what a year it has been for Disney animation. Zootopia is an extraordinarily hard act to follow, being what could be considered the best film of what has become known as the Disney Revival Era. At least until now.

First off, the voice casting is amazingly spot-on. First-timer Auli’i Cravalho does an astonishing job. The range of emotion that she is able to portray with simply her voice makes it hard to believe this is her first acting credit. You would think she was a seasoned veteran, just like Dwayne Johnson. Speakin of, I know that often animators will try to bring some part of the voice actor’s likeness to a character but Maui is the spitting image of Johnson. Pretty much a caricature of him. Not only does Maui look like Johnson but he moves like him too. He even does the eyebrow thing! And the “pec muscle thing” as my sister so elegantly put it. But besides his looks, Johnson has the perfect voice for Maui.

I am beginning to feel like a broken record when it comes to reviewing animated films. With every film released, the animation gets better and better and the gets more and more beautiful. The film takes place on the open water and on sandy beaches and in lush forests. The water glistens and sparkles and flows extremely life-like. This is probably the best water animation since Finding Nemo. One animation aspect that really surprised me was the characters’ hair. Given the characters are sailing on the water for most of the movie, they were bound to get wet eventually. The way it looks heavier and bunches together and shimmers is, again, very life-like. I give the animators big kudos for getting something that can be easily overlooked to look so accurate.

Like any Disney princess, Moana has her animal sidekicks. The one that steals the cake, however, is her dimwitted chicken Heihei, voiced by the versatile Alan Tadyk. When I say “voiced” I mean he makes sounds, he doesn’t actually talk. Heihei is much like Maximus and Pascal from Tangled, well like most animal sidekicks really, where his humor comes from his actions. In a movie that is already filled with a decent amount of humor, Heihei added a unique touch that garnered laughs from every scene he was in.

Like every Disney movie ever, there is a message to be found in Moana. What I like best about the message in this film is that both Moana and Maui deal with the same problem of doubt but they deal with it from different sources. Maui has self doubt, struggling internally with events from his past. Moana, on the other hand, deals with doubt from others, mainly her father, about whether she is truly ready to be chief of her tribe. They find strength in each other and both overcome those doubts. It was a crafty way for Disney to bring their message across.

In recent years, Disney has become more focused on releasing films containing messages of self-empowerment, as seen in movies like Maleficent and Frozen. But where Moana differs from something like Frozen is that there is no prince or male love interest at all. Moana focuses on exactly that: Moana. It is all about her and finding finding power and confidence within herself to complete her journey to save her people.

It wouldn’t be a Disney princess movie without some musical numbers. Two songs that stood out to me the most were “You’re Welcome,” sung by the surprising musical Johnson, and “How Far I’ll Go,” sung by Cravalho. As much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, I will admit it is one of the weaker soundtracks of late from Disney animation. I don’t think it will become as popular as some of their more recent films have become, such as Frozen, or have the longevity as several of Disney’s other classic animated features, like The Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind to be proven wrong on that.

I thought Moana was GREAT :-D. Although the score might not be as catchy as other Disney favorites, it fits the setting beautifully, the same way Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho completely embody Maui and Moana. I have really enjoyed the last several years of Disney animation, very reminiscent of the quality of films from when I was a kid. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the directors who brought me my favorite Disney animated film.

You can read my sister’s review of Moana here.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director / Story
Jon Musker – Director / Story
Don Hall – Co-Director / Story
Chris Williams – Co-Director / Story
Jared Bush – Screenplay
Pamela Ribon – Story
Aaron Kandell – Story
Jordan Kandell – Story
Mark Mancina – Composer (Score)
Opetaia Foa’i – Composer (Original Songs)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Composer (Original Songs)

Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)
Jemaine Clement – Tamatoa (voice)
Nicole Scherzinger – Sina (voice)
Alan Tadyk – Heihei (voice)

Disney and a Beer: The Little Mermaid

The Beer
Abita Christmas Ale – One of my Christmas gifts from my grandparents was a basket of holiday seasonal beers. The Abita Christmas Ale was my last one from the basket. This might be my favorite of the beers that were in the basket. It was heavier than other holiday brews that I have tried, almost like an amber or dark ale, and more flavorful than the others as well. According to Abita, the recipe changes every year, so I think I will try to check it again next holiday season. Verdict: Enjoyed it.

The Movie

The Little Mermaid movie posterSynopsis
Ariel (Jodi Benson (voice)), a mermaid princess, falls in love with Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes (voice)), a human. She strikes a deal with the sea-witch Ursula (Pat Carroll (voice)) and exchanges her voice for a pair of legs so she can be on land and win Eric’s heart.

Review
Given the 80s theme going on this blog lately, I decided to watch one of the last animated films to come out of the decade: The Little Mermaid. I received the blu-ray several months ago and just got around to watching it. I grabbed my little sister (the other ginger of the family) and we sat down to watched our favorite red-headed princess together. Apparently, it had been some time since we both had seen it. When it was finished she remarked, “that’s just good as I remember.” I simply replied, “well, yeah!”

There are two big reasons why this movie works so well: the characters and the music. The characters are charming, relatable, and simply put, so much fun. Ariel is cheerful and venturesome. She doesn’t like to stay still and is always looking for her next adventure. Flounder is the Piglet to Ariel’s Pooh Bear; he’s easily scared but will do anything for his friends. Sebastian is everyone’s favorite crustacean who acts as the buffer between Ariel’s whimsical personality and her father. King Triton is the protective father who will do anything to keep his daughters safe. Eric is the noble prince who will stop at nothing to find his perfect princess. Ursula is mystifying and magically powerful. I think most of us can find a little part of one or more of these characters we can relate to, maybe even Ursula…

Disney is well known for great musical numbers. Some of my favorite come from the era known as the Disney Renaissance and are written by the composer Alan Menken. Menken worked on many of the Renaissance-era films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Howard Ashman was Menken’s other composing-half until Ashman’s passing in 1991. Together, they created one of Disney’s best soundtracks with instant classics like “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl.” I’ve also always enjoyed “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” In standard Disney fashion, you will be singing the songs long after you have finished watching the movie.

The Little Mermaid introduces all the major characters within the first fifteen minutes or so. This gives us plenty of time to spend with them. It was much faster paced than I remember. That works well because it keeps the story moving. At the same time, it doesn’t move too fast. It does a great job of balancing character development and story progression.

Most of the film takes place underwater (as you would expect in a story about a mermaid). The animation perfectly captures this environment. None of the movements are stiff or unnatural, they were always smooth and flowing. The animators used live actors for references to sketch, much like Walt Disney used in his early films. It really paid off because characteristics, such as hair movement under water or body movement while swimming, looked and behaved exactly as you would expect it to in real life.

I would have liked to hear just a little bit more of Ursula’s back story. She mentions how she used to be in the palace but was banished. A quick few sentences about what she did in the palace and what happened that caused her banishment would have fleshed out her comments and her character. The deleted scenes contained some of this information but obviously those didn’t make it into the final cut. It doesn’t take away from her character or the story so I don’t think it is a huge deal.

I thought The Little Mermaid was GREAT :-D. There is very little to knock in this film. All the characters are well written, it moves quickly but never feels rushed, the music is infectious and the animation is beautiful. What a way to kick off one of Disney’s best periods of animation!

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Writer / Director
John Musker – Writer / Director
Alan Menken – Composer
Howard Ashman – Composer

Jodi Benson – Ariel (voice)
Christopher Daniel Barnes – Eric (voice)
Pat Carroll – Ursula (voice)
Kenneth Mars – Triton (voice)
Samuel E. Wright – Sebastian (voice)
Jason Marin – Flounder (voice)
Buddy Hackett – Scuttle (voice)
Paddi Edwards – Flotsam & Jetsam (voice)
Ben Wright – Grimsby (voice)