The very first film I ever saw in cinema was The Little Mermaid. I was (nearly) five and my sister must have been
three, she was so little that in the time before booster-seats, we (that is my cousins and me) had to put our coats on her seat. 1. obviously so she could see the screen but 2. so she wouldn’t fold double in the seats as she was too light to keep the fold up seat down! I remember there was a break in the film (which cinema does that these days?) and we had ice-creams. (They were cornetto’s, that’s how impressed I was by it all.) I had coloured in a poster and handed it on to get a real one. We forgot the real one in the cinema (whoops) but one of my cousin’s gave me copy out of her Donald Duck magazine. It wasn’t on the thick shiny nice paper, but it would do.
We sang the songs for weeks after with the help of a tape we played over and over; we even had a little mermaid toy to play in the bath with. I wanted to be a red-head (no actually, I made that up) but I was well impressed for a very long time after. Last year I saw the film again and I was very surprised it was only 90min long. (AND it had a break in the middle!) In my memory it lasted so much longer. After that first experience, I obviously went to see a lot more films, the first years they were mostly cartoons. Mostly Disney actually and we switched from the dubbed versions to the grown-up subtitled ones when Pocahontas came out.
As you can see, Disney was a major influence on my early cinema experience. Later I saw most Disney films on video or DVDs: I believe Hercules was even shown during a Latin class ( and before anyone starts: yes I know he is Greek but it was a small school ok, our Latin teacher also taught Greek. It was ok, we only had 6 people taking ancient language anyway.) I definitely saw Mulan with my sister in our local cinema and we can still quote from it. Come on, it’s an Oriental girl who kicks ass: we needed to be part of the movement. the movement was however pretty small. Disney was losing momentum and territory to Pixar. Computer animation was rapidly becoming the next big thing.
Even though Disney had already experimented with computer animation to explore different camera angles on Beauty and The Beast (which was consequently nominated for an Oscar) it seemed Pixar was exploring new worlds faster. Here I’ll just state that I also got older too of course and might have missed the hype of Atlantis or Treasure Island and perhaps already the rose-tinted spectacles go on when looking back on one’s childhood. Whatever the case, I hadn’t seen an animated Disney movie (bar Pixar collaborations) for years until a couple of hours ago.
The Princess and The Frog, based very loosely on the actual fairytale – in fact only taking the one element of it ‘a princess kissing a frog to turn into a prince – this was Disney as I remembered it. Beautiful drawings, catchy songs and a great sense of double layered humour. Set in 1930s New Orleans the musicscore was good ol fashioned jazzy business but the story surprisingly fresh and modern. Tiana, ‘the princess’ in this case is dreaming of her own restaurant and is working hard to achieve it. Double shifts and saving money to achieve her dream. The prince is a playboy who just got cut off from his parents fund trying to marry a rich girl to keep up his life-style. (Yes, this is gold diggin’ Disney style guys!) They go on a journey and learn lots of lessons along the way with the usual Disney sidekicks, this time a firefly called Ray and a trumpet playing alligator called Louis. (That’s right as in… yes.) Oh and let me mention the hilarious Southern friend of Tiana whose accent is so thick you could cut through it.
Ok, so for adults the moral of the story is pretty obvious as are the lessons about the difference between ‘wanting and needing’ . It is about middle ground, about compromise, about working hard to make things happen and having a little faith too. We should all wish upon a star sometimes…
I walked out, feeling all fuzzy and warm with lovely Disney magic, but this faded too quickly. It’s a shame foggy London is always lit, you cannot spot the stars, all you see are the lights on the passing airplanes. But when I crossed the bridge opposite the flat, I looked up and I spotted to my surprise several dimly lit stationary dots in the sky. It seems even in the modern city stars are there: you just need to want to see them.