Saturday, September 29, 2012

Disney Animated Films In My Lifetime...

Since I was born in 1982, there have been 27 full length animated feature films released by Disney.  Actually, make that since 1985.  So in 27 years, there have been 27 films.  Conversely, there were *only* 24 released in the first 48 years of production, so Disney has been in overdrive since the mid-1980's.  Of course, technology helps now, as animation no longer has to be completely done by hand...

Anyway, digression aside, I wanted to give a look into some of my favorites during my lifetime.  There are some before I was even a thought in my parents' mind that I love (Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Robin Hood, The Aristocats, et cetera), but I do want to stick to those especially of my childhood, since some of these films left an indelible mark on me - so much that I even reference them in my classes, much to the horror of my students!

First, if you want the frame of reference, Wikipedia has a nicely organized list of Disney animated features.  You will not find craptacular direct-to-video sequels like The Return of Jafar on this list.  Sorry.

That being said, let's get the movies out of the way that I don't particularly like...

- Oliver & Company
- Pocahontas
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Mulan
- Tarzan
- Lilo and Stitch
- The Little Mermaid (BLASPHEMY!)

Some of these are just downright crappy (Oliver & Company and Pocahontas), others, I just didn't care for. No rhyme or reason - just consider them to be irrational dislikes, especially The Little Mermaid.  I know, that makes me a blasphemer, especially in the eyes of every woman born between 1979 and 1985.  Nothing I can do about that one, though.

Underrated Films

These are the ones that I feel are very good, but don't get the appreciation they deserve because they are either ignored or completely overshadowed by more famous films that were released within some years of it.

1) The Great Mouse Detective - there is a case to be made that this is the most underrated Disney movie ever made.  It has a fantastic villain (Professor Ratigan) and a pretty good plot, to boot.  However, it was made during a down era of Disney (1977-1989), and so it got lost in the shuffle, especially once the major revival began in the late 1980's.

2) The Emperor's New Groove - a very fun and irreverent movie, and much unlike many others made.  It's pretty much the spiritual descendant of Hercules; a film that relies on pop-culture references and modern-day projections.  Kronk is the scene-stealer in my opinion, although Yzma turning into a cat is just about one of the funniest scenes ever.

3) The Rescuers Down Under - this is the only sequel that is on the list of feature films, and in a few ways, it is better than its 1977 predecessor.  George C. Scott as the villain McLeach is fantastic, although every time I watch this, I want McLeach to say "no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country!"

The Best

1) The Lion King - great music, great scenery, great symbolism.  A quotable film and one that I have continuously quoted to my students.  Even the villains are funny - the hyenas and Scar. My favorite song is "Be Prepared", although there isn't a single bad one in here.

2) Hercules - most would disagree with putting Hercules on this part of the list, but the way it works in the legends with modern day humor and pop-culture references is second to none. The writing for this one was fantastic.  The casting was fantastic too - James Woods as Hades is definitely the coolest villain in a Disney film.

3) Aladdin - home to one of the best characters ever (The Genie), and a never slowing set of songs and dialogue, with an indelible lesson of staying true to one's self and roots.

And finally, the best of all...

4) Beauty and the Beast - never underestimate the effect casting has on an animated film. James Woods elevated Hercules and Robin Williams as the Genie gave Aladdin a push that it wouldn't have gotten.  The absolutely perfect blend of the cast of Beauty and the Beast.  The score is amazing, and the animation itself was the pinnacle of Disney work.  Nothing before or after could top the work of this one.    

On Jesus Being Married...

I realize I'm a little late to this game, but every now and again there are modern day theological obsessions that need to be addressed here.  The latest going around concerns itself with a fragment that supposedly talks about Jesus being married.

First, let's get a couple of things out of the way...

1) There are numerous references in Scripture to Jesus being a "bridegroom", with each instance of the "bride" being the Church.

2) There is zero evidence in the earliest documents of Christianity that proves or even suggests that Jesus ever had a wife.  That never stops the Usual Suspects from trying to force fit someone like Mary Magdalene into their favorite projected narrative, but if one wishes to be intellectually honest, he would have to admit the evidence is somewhere between zero and zilch.

Quite honestly, I don't think it matters in the way most people think it does.  If Jesus were married, it doesn't change anything theologically or change anything within his mission.  It is fitting that Jesus was not married, just as it was fitting that he died on the cross, that Mary was immaculately conceived, and a whole host of other things surrounding the life of Christ. Usually, the people hyperventilating and squealing over such "finds" like the aforementioned papyrus have two particular lines of thought that they believe will change because Jesus was married...
zOMG, Jesus was married!  Guess those old farts in Rome will have to allow married priests!!!
Um, not quite.  First of all - not all Catholic priests are celibate - just look at the Eastern Churches.  Likewise, the Latin Rite discipline of celibacy did not become mandatory until the year 1079.  A discipline means it can be loosened or tightened depending on the needs of the time - like pre-Mass fasting, meat on Fridays, and yes, even priestly celibacy.  Sorry to disappoint.  Of course, it's not as if facts will matter to people with an agenda anyway...
Jesus had a wife!  Changes are a coming for the roles of women in the ordained ministry!
Again, no dice.  Jesus having a wife doesn't change the fact that he gave the Twelve (all men) the keys to the kingdom.  He didn't give such a role to the most perfect creature ever made - his own mother.  Mary far surpasses every single one of us in dignity by virtue of her sinlessness, but even she was not given the charge to "go make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). The modern mind sees this as nothing more than a naked power grab, and unfortunately, the only things the modern mind understands are power and consent.  What it does tell me also is that clericalism is alive and well within the theologically liberal and modernist movement.

In other words, the obsession with Jesus being married or not is mostly a modern-day projection of our sexually charged culture.  Of course, it's ironic because as a society, we are consistently downgrading the value of marriage as it is, so I am not sure why the same people who are downgrading marriage insist that Jesus must have had a wife.  And using Gnostic sources to make the case is also an ironic twist that few outside the theological community note, given the Gnostic flesh and marriage-hating tendencies.

On CNN's "Belief Blog" - a guest columnist, Stephen Prothero, wrote that he doesn't care either...
What we do know is that we live in a country besotted with Jesus and in an age obsessed with marriage and sexuality and the body, which is why this tiny papyrus is making such big waves.

As for me, I don’t much care what Jesus thought about marriage, or whether he engaged in it. I think we as a society tend to collapse religion far too readily into bedroom questions, as if Jesus came into the world to tell us with whom we should be having sex, and how.

I’m more interested in what Jesus has to say about wealth and poverty, the rich and the poor. And there is plenty in the available record to read and heed, "if only we have ears to hear."
It's ironic here in a couple of ways, because he completely ignores the fact that Jesus did have a few things to say about marriage - namely in Matthew, chapter 19.  More importantly, the irony is that he engages in the same kinds of projection of which he accuses the "sex-obsessed" people, except on the issue of wealth.  Reducing Christ to a sex-obsessed or a "99 Percenter" taking on the eeeeevil rich is merely differing sides of the same coin of projecting modern sensibilities.  Not surprising, of course, but to use another phrase of the Lord, the projectors need to remove the beam from their own eye.