Thursday, January 31, 2013

Having Nightmares with Disney (or:10 Creepy Disney Moments) - Part 2

If you've missed the first part of this list, you can check it out here!

5. Pocahontas: “Savages”

Released in 95, Pocahontas was NOT the success Disney staff expected. And I know why.

Because Pocahontas and John Smith are BOOOOORIIIING. The raccoon Meeko, the hummingbird Flit and Percy the pug are way more interesting. The talking tree makes me yawn, and chief Powhatan leaves much to be desired in the "princess's father" category (Powhatan is not funny, with his "steady as the beating drum" talk. Snooze fest!). And Pocahontas' best friend is a bitch. An honorable mention is due to the young British settler Thomas, who is endearing and the only character in the movie to feel that genocide might be wrong. Also noteworthy: he was dubbed by none other than a young Christian Bale. 


But the visual and the soundtrack are very superior to the film. And the song “Savages”, in particular, that shows both British settlers and native Americans preparing themselves for war, is spectacular:

This sequence is great, the music is impressive, but singing about genocide is... dark; definitely not a movie to be watched around Thanksgiving, if you ask me!
Another thing that did not help the movie (for me) was Mel Gibson dubbing John Smith. You can hear the crazy in his voice!

"...and that's how the Jews killed Our Lord and Savior."

In the end, Disney makes settlers and native Americans happily helping each other.

4. The Princess and the Frog: Dr. Facilier's death

In 2004, Disney promised not to make any more traditionally animated movies – thank God they went back on their word and released The Princess and the Frog in 2009.

The film introduces the first-ever African-American Disney princess, and it takes place in New Orleans in the 20's, with lots of voodoo, jazz and Cajun accent.
When the villan, the voodoo witch doctor Facilier (love child of Cruella de Vil and Cap. Hook), fails to fulfill his part in the agreement he had with the voodoo powers that be, (his “friends on the other side”), punishment does not tardy:

“Pompompompompom ARE YOU REEAAADY?” Oh. Dear. God. Those little voodoo dolls coming out of the ground, Facilier's desperate face – printed forever on a pillar – plus the chanting all make for a real nightmare.
Once again: chanting never helps.

3. The Black Cauldron : The Horned King's death
Never heard of this movie or don't quite remember it? That's because Disney does not want you to remember this flop from 85.

Based on the book series The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, the movie is about young “assistant pig-keeper” Taran, who must stop the Horned King (very Ring Wraith looking, by the way) from getting the Black Cauldron, which can give him a legion of undead soldiers. This film and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are considered to be Disney's darkest movies ever. Not to mention the story is, frankly, a mess.

And this movie was SO dark that drastic cuts had to be made before its release; one of the deleted scenes, for example, showed a man's flesh being dissolved by a deathly mist (not pretty, but if you want you can see it here), while another displayed one of the undead soldiers killing a man by slicing his neck and torso. Nice. These cuts were so abrupt that they even left a perceptible jump in the soundtrack.
But even after cutting the strongest scenes, the reception was not good, loosing at the box office to the likes of the first Care Bears movie. (!) 

Aaaaaaand here is the scene where the Horned King dies, sucked into the Black Cauldron.

 Lovely scene.

2. Fantasia: “Night on Bald Mountain”

Fantasia was a grand project, but not a lucrative one.
The timing for it was bad: releasing a movie in the midst of the Second World War (Fantasia was released in 1940) meant not being able to count on the European market; and as it had been a very expensive movie to make, the studio did not have the necessary profit to cover the expenses it'd had. The movie was said to be a  “remarkable nightmare”. One critic said it was “for adults and very nerdy kids”.

Since I've always been very nerdy, I LOVED Fantasia when I was a kid. Except for the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment. It shows the demon Chernabog summoning evil spirits and hellish beasts at midnight; they all dance and fly across the air, only stopping upon hearing some Ave Maria chanting in the distance, along with the sun rise.

Another item on my “fast-forward list”. It terrifies me to the very core of my soul until this day. And though I find it fascinating nowadays, it's so grotesque I think wouldn't let my kids watch it before they were, I don't know, 15.

1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame: “Hell Fire”

This 96 movie is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a horrible adaptation of Victor Hugo's book The Hunchback of Notre Dame – but BOY is it an excellent film! 

The story is good if you don't think of the original book, the visual is dazzling, and the soundtrack basically told many other Disney songs they could suck it.
But Hunchback is too dark: Quasimodo is tortured by the Parisians, Esmeralda is way too sexy, the 15th century Catholicism is to heavy for a child to really understand, and even the vocabulary used might be beyond some children's grasp sometimes. No wonder they released Hercules the following year, a bunch of sparkly colorful nonsense.
But Judge Claude Frollo's moral dilemma, torn between his religious duty and devotion and his lust for Esmeralda, is the scariest aspect of the movie (starting at 0:42):

I must say: one doesn't understand what Frollo's actually going through here till after one's puberty. 
Frollo is guilty of religious hypocrisy, lust, attempted genocide, psychological oppression, murder and what has to be The Most Demented Disney Song Ever. 
Creepy lecherous old man.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Having Nightmares with Disney (or: 10 Creepy Disney Moments) - Part 1

I'm not ashamed to say out loud that, though I'm pushing 30, I still love Disney movies, and cry each time I see Aladdin freeing the Genie or Mufasa dying and Simba trying to wake him up.

It beats Bambi's mother's death anytime. [sobs]

Disney movies are extremely beautiful, animation and story-wise, not to mention the breathtaking soundtracks. And the children can usually learn something from it.

Usually, not always. Signing pacts with the devil doesn't exactly scream filial obedience.

Nevertheless, sometimes Disney awards us with scenes and/or songs that are truly nightmare-fuel. After all, sleeping soundly is totally overrated.

10. Tangled: “Mother Knows Best [Reprise]”

I LOVED Tangled! It's a great movie with great soundtrack and characters (specially the über charming Flynn Ryder, and I'd been waiting for so long for another captivating Disney princess like Rapunzel) and does not fail to entertain. It's simply adorable.

Rapunzel's been locked in a tower for her whole life of 18 years. When runnaway dashing thief Flynn Ryder breaks into the tower to flee from the law, the girl sees in him the opportunity she needs to leave and make her dream come true: see the floating lanterns that appear in the night sky on her birthday every year.
As I said, it's an adorable movie. IF you don't count the scene when the witch who pretends to be Rapunzel's mother, Mother Gothel, finds Rapunzel in the forest and puts her DOOOOOOOWN.

 “Why would he like you, come on now, really? Look at you! You think that he's impressed?” Jeez. That's exactly the kind of mother that pushes their 15-year old daughters in the direction of anorexia.

9. The Beauty and the Beast: “The Mob Song”

Released in 91, this was the studio's biggest hit since the 40's. It also made history by being the first animation to ever be nominated for an Academy Award of Best Picture (back when the nominees amounted only to 5). It was nominated for Best Original Song as well, for 3 different songs (“Belle”, “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast”), taking the award with “Beauty and the Beast” AND for Best Original Score.

Belle is the only person to have ever taken the risk to get to know the Beast, and they fall in love. But the villagers, as good villagers always do, decide to march to the Beast's castle with torches and pitchforks.

Gaston is not so great a villain, he's much more of a jerk, really. BUT he casts a whole new light upon himself while leading the villagers. The line “We don't like what we don't understand” is very medieval and always current. Collective hysteria can be terrifying.  

8. The Little Mermaid : Ursula's death

Disney had been having a bad time up to 89, with their movies underperforming at the box office; but upon the release of The Little Mermaid, what is today known as the “Disney Renaissance” began, i.e., it was the beginning of a new golden era for animated movies: unforgettable classics for the audiences and astronomic profit for the studio. (It ended in 99 after Tarzan. In my opinion, it's no surprise.)

The story is great (albeit greatly distorted from the original tale) score and songs are addictive ("undah tha sea, undah tha sea, dahling it's bettah, down where it's wettah, take it from me!"), Ariel is charismatic, Eric is the first prince to have not only a name but also a personality...

Yes, nameless bland Cinderella prince, I'm looking at you.

...Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle are great sidekicks, and Ursula is a fantastic villain, specially in her scary-but-fascinating looks.
And the way she dies is just plain frightening.

When I was a child and watched this on tape, I'd always fast-foward it, cause I was shit scared of this scene. Dying impaled is already quite ugly, but the added lightnings, her skeleton and her tentacles wrapping around the ship are the cherry in a cake of sheer horror.

7. Dumbo: Dumbo and Timothy Drunk

Dumbo (1941) lasts for mere 65 minutes, and it's gotta be one of Disney's most charming and unpretentious movies ever.

The baby elephant Dumbo suffers bullying from everybody around him (animals and people alike), because of his ginormous ears. But when he learns to fly using those ears (with the help of some offensively stereotyped crows), he quickly becomes the main attraction in the circus. And they all lived happily ever after.
But before living happily ever after there was this petrifying scene when Dumbo and his mouse mentor Timothy get accidentally drunk, after drinking water mixed with champagne.

I used to fast-forward it as well. I mean, dude: There's an elephant made of other elephants, and its eyes become pyramids, and from behind them comes a camel-elephant that turns into a serpent that turns into an odalisque, and her belly turns into an eye! This must be the devil! And their CHANTING “pink elephants on parade” really doesn't help.

6. The Lion King: “Be Prepared”

Released in 94, this movie remains as one of the studio's biggest successes ever – and it still is one of the most lucrative animated movies in history. Another record: Mufasa's death, plotted by his brother Scar, is definitely one of the saddest Disney scenes ever, and it must've made thousands of kids cry around the globe at the same time.

Besides the amazing score and soundtrack by Elton John, a Hamlet touch to a great plot, Darth Vader talking to Ferris Bueller through the clouds and a Mr. Miyagi baboon, The Lion King also stands out for having one of the darkest songs, showing Scar and the hyenas' ambition.

That surely is a very accurate recreation of Hell. Everything in green and red, bones and decomposing carcasses everywhere... *shivers*. Notice the fact that Scar basically kills a hyena, making it fall into one of those hellish fissures! And the evil-faced hyenas marching is the epitome of nazi terror. In the end, they all rise as if from Hell. And though this can be quite frightening, I just can't help loving this song, it's very catchy!

I can't help loving Jeremy Irons, either. Jeremy, please marry me. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Being Mugged V

My faithful readers may well remember my “Being Mugged” cycle of stories (I, II, III and my brother's turn). Daring tales of a swashbuckling English teacher in Rio de Janeiro, with a devil-may-care attitude, who would be damned if she'd let any mugger take anything from her. And yes, that's how I usually think of myself.

It couldn't possibly take too long before it happened again, right? After all, I'm a danger magnet!

It was a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun was bright, the birds were singing and I was going to work. Life was full of promises.
But every promise can go awry, and that Saturday was no exception to Murphy's Law: as I turned around a corner a guy bumped into me, pressed a knife against my stomach and demanded my purse, with no one around to see it.

(On my dying bed, when I see my life flash before my eyes, all I'll see will be guys demanding my purse.)

I immediately said “no!”, and as he tried to jerk the purse away from me I jerked it back, in a very dangerous thug of war, one might say. He pulled the plug on our little game trying to stick the knife into me. Quick as a cat I swerved, but that moment was all he needed to grab my purse and walk away. Yeah, he WALKED away.

Would pretty little me let him WALK away with my purse? I strode after him without a second thought. It didn't take the mugger much time to realize I was going after him, and he broke into a run right away. I mean, I may not be much of a threat, I'm pretty tiny (I'm 1,58cm or 5'3'' tall, and weigh 48 kg or 105lb), but I wasn't going down without a fight! He ran, and I ran after him. And I swear that dude wasn't normal. When he saw I was chasing him, he threw his knife away. Seriously, he just tossed in on the ground and kept on running. What the flying f**?! I ran even more, I wouldn't let a complete ball-less moron take my purse.

But of course, since I'm as graceful as a platypus and as good at running as a peacock, the inevitable happened: I fell. Hard. One of my shoes went flying across the street, and when I stood back up my hands were bleeding, and my pants had two huge holes out of which my knees, covered in blood and pain, could see the world. A weaker being might've given up then – not me! I continued my chase in my newest identity: Lady Limps-a-lot. Believe it or not, I kept on chasing him limping on both legs. After I'd picked up my flying shoe, of course.

Now the tiny little limping girl was not a threat, and the mugger simply walked on. He had a thousand heads' start over me, and I could see him becoming a teeny point in the distance, with a burgundy blur on his back – my purse. He got further and further away.

I'm not ashamed to tell you that at that point, though I did not stop walking after him, I did start slowing down. I was far from home (I'd chased him for a long while), my knees hurt like hell and he was getting away with stealing my stuff. The world was a horrible place to live in, and my head was hurting because of the fall. As I prepared myself to finally quit that foolish chase and shake my fists towards Heaven, a strong tall man was jogging by; when he saw me, he looked at the guy disappearing in the distance, then back at me again, like in an Old Spice commercial. He stopped.

Jogging Man: Did that guy mug you?
Shaky Me: Yes...
Jogging Man: Does he have any kind of weapon?
Shaky Me: No... he did, but he threw it away...
Jogging Man: He threw it away?!
Shaky Me: Yeah, he had a knife, but he threw it away while running...
Jogging Man: Ok, I'm going after him. Go home, don't stay here, you're hurt!

And Jogging Man, with no further ado, sprinted after the mugger.
A little befuddled, I watched him sprint for a while, then decided to take his advice. I arrived home and screamed for my husband (the keys were in my purse, of course, and the door bell was out of order). Hubby wore a question mark on his face as he opened the gate and that was when I finally burst into tears.

After I'd explained everything between sobs and tears, and he'd given me some water, he started taking care of my battle wounds. I called my work, explaining why I wouldn't be able to go that day (not only did I have to go to the police station, but I also could not go anywhere with both knees swelling up to the size of a basketball each). When I was done, the telephone rang: my father. With flowers in his voice:

My Happy Dad: Good morning my beloved daughter! How are you?!
Angry Me: Awful! I got mugged!
My Happy Dad: Really? Well, worry not!
Angrier Me: “Worry not”?! What the...
My Happy Dad: Worry not, because the guy that went after the mugger actually got him, beat him up, got your purse and found my number in your agenda as “emergency contact”! He's got all your stuff back for you!
No Longer Angry Me: … How... *burst into tears again*

The story: Amazing Jogging Man finally reached him (I was not surprised: Jogging Man was huge and, well, a jogging man! The mugger was much smaller and not at all athletic), gave him a mighty beating as if he were Chris Brown and the mugger were Rihanna, took off his clothes, threw them away and warned him to never go back to that neighborhood ever again. And left him there, bare naked for other people to lynch him (because at that point there was a mob watching, holding forks and torches).
We talked some more, I thanked him a gazillion times and went home, for my unexpected day off from work.

To this day, people keep telling me that I was crazy to chase the mugger; well, my answer to that is: hadn't I chased him, Jogging Man wouldn't have bumped into me and thus saved me. You know what they say: “Faint hearts never won fair ladies” (“fair ladies” meaning “their purse back”) and “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Also, we now refer to my savior as The Jogging Avenger.

To be fair, my Jogging Avenger looks nothing like him. But Chris Evans is ALWAYS an eye candy, am I right girls?!