Podcast: Disney Matters

This week, EN4News reporters Paul Sinclair, Dave Paul and Olivia Hill discuss the upcoming Disney remakes, scheduled for release in 2019.

Film Review: Ralph Breaks The Internet

While not an instant classic, this sequel to Wreck It Ralph defies expectations simply by being “surprisingly not terrible”.

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ralph Breaks The Internet

It’s a strange thing, being a grown man and going to watch a kid’s movie on your own. Still, I’ve managed to apply a critical eye and not simply lurk around the theatre, looking creepy.

The plot of Ralph Breaks The Internet follows essentially what the title says. Our hero Ralph, a lovable 80s arcade game villain, journeys to the internet with his feisty young accomplice Vanellope to save the latter’s arcade cabinet (which is in need of spare parts). They find what they need on eBay, there’s some shenanigans, they get the thing, there’s yet more shenanigans, and then some minor peril ensues as Ralph’s best intentions go awry. However, everything ends well and leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling inside. If that’s a spoiler for you, there’s a few Disney classics you’ll need a peek at before you read the rest of this.

The film mostly takes place inside a fictionalised version of the internet, so the humour centres around internet culture, memes and social media. This is an incredibly difficult kind of joke, as it needs to be incredibly up-to-date. More so than any movie that has spent two years in production has any right to be. Yet, they actually manage it. There’s still a few bits of banter that really would’ve been funnier six years ago when the first one came out, but for the most part the in-jokes and references are pretty on the ball. One particularly notable scene from the trailers involving all the various Disney princesses is actually a great laugh.

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Promotional movie poster

I think the way they manage to not entirely miss the punchline with all the internet humour is by not delving too deep into online culture. They do cover a lot of interesting points – the viciousness of comment sections, viral videos, even the highly illegal “Dark Web” – but there’s always more references you can make when you’re talking about the internet. Doing that, however, would just create some horrifying remake of The Emoji Movie. Instead, the writers have shone the light back onto the characters themselves for most of the jokes, and made a lot of self-referential jabs about Disney movies. Looking back is a good theme, I suppose, for what is Walt Disney Studios’ first theatrical sequel since 2011 – the one you’re thinking of when you see that fact and go “Really?” is either a Pixar movie or was straight-to-DVD.

While I seem positive here, I am being very generous with the term “entertaining”. It’s a great movie to watch with gullible, easily distracted children, or to put on for a couple hours while you play with your phone. You can (and should!) tilt your head up every so often to enjoy the odd sequence but the film doesn’t overly grab you. It’s also pretty long: nearly two hours, and this is supposed to be a kids movie. My attention span isn’t even that long, let alone that of the standard pre-pubescent cinema goer. There’s laughs, but it seems like it mostly just appeals to the hard-core Wreck It Ralph fan –  if that’s even a thing.

See movie times for Ralph Breaks The Internet here. 

Is an Avengers Premiere on the cards for Edinburgh?

Disney are being urged to hold a World Premiere for the new Avengers film in Edinburgh after key scenes in the film were shot in the city.

Edinburgh’s film office, Film Edinburgh, hope that there will be a premiere similar to that of T2 Trainspotting, which hit screens a year ago this month. They think a premiere would be ‘the perfect way to mark the city’s contribution.’

Scenes from Avengers: Infinity War were filmed at multiple locations in the Capital over the course of a few weeks, attracting attention from locals as restaurants and parts of Waverley Station were turned into sets for the blockbuster franchise.

The story behind Toy Story

In a small back room of the then independent Lucasfilm studio in Emeryville California, a small team of writers, story boarders and animators sat down and planned out the next 18 years of what would be known as Pixar Animation Studios.

Responsible for films like;  The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Toy Story and well….Cars. The studio has created some of the finest pieces of animated cinema at a prolific rate over the past four decades.

Pixar Studios in California. Photograph: Rotoscopes

Pixar have established themselves as a studio which is known for producing well-loved and successful animated films, but also for pushing the envelope in relation to possibilities with animation and cinematic storytelling.

However, it began with a simple story about a toy cowboy with some serious abandonment issues.

Toy Story was Pixar’s first animated feature film and whilst I would normally spend the next 50 words or so telling you what the film is about, the film has become such a staple for modern children’s entertainment I’ll skip that part and get right into the good stuff.

What strikes first time viewers of the film (there are literally dozens of them) is its maturity and multifaceted storytelling. Highlighting for the first time that family entertainment could be for the whole family.

Kids who watch it are entertained by the zany antics of woody, buzz and all of the supporting cast and learn to feel real empathy for the cast as they go through their respective arcs ( I swear if you didn’t shed a tear at the ‘Buzz trying to fly scene’ as a child you are not human).

Meanwhile, parents are given a nostalgic ride through their own childhood with a bittersweet reminder that the world is always being reshaped, but that doesn’t mean you have to let go of the past.

The Toy Story gang minus Buzz Lightyear. Photograph: Google

The movie is also a loving homage to the changing nature of Hollywood cinema. Buzz’s replacement of Woody as the new cool toy represents the explosion of science fiction in the late 70’s and early 80’s, which eclipsed the previously dominant Western genre.

Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon around the time of this films’ conception way back in 79, and it’s clear that this sudden change was something significant to the creative minds as Pixar.

That change is such a core theme of the film brings forth an eerie sense of foreboding, as rival animation studios were quick to adopt 3D animation as the primary way of creating their feature films. This marked an irreversible change in the genre as traditional 2D movies were left behind.

In the subsequent 38 years a lot has changed in the studio. Pixar and its father studio Lucasfilm have been acquired by entertainment behemoth and animation rival Disney for a combined cost of over $12 billion, and the studio is now in charge of producing not only their own creative works, but also the annual animated works of their new creative overlords.

However, it is clear that throughout this journey they have only ever been concerned with one thing: producing animated films that push the limits of human creativity in an ever evolving art form.

And on the notion of change I’ll leave you with this quote from Pixar founder Ed Catmull: “Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.”

The main building, including Brave art, at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Photograph: Deborah Coleman / Pixar

 


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Brainstorm: Life, Animated Review

Director, Robert Ross Williams brings us a colourful and tender documentary with his newest release Life, Animated. A coming of age movie about Autism and of making sense of the world through film.

Many people can claim to grow up watching Disney films. Owen Suskind is no different. Every day was filled with toy sword fights with Dad, constant re-runs of the Little Mermaid and scribblings of favourite characters. But as he grew up he became distant, regressing into himself. Owen would communicate with babbles and his movement was erratic – unable to properly walk in a straight line.

The difference before and after his sudden change was stark. The once bubbly child was socially removed. He rarely talked or made eye contact, he would deviate from crowds at birthday parties. His parents learnt that he had autism and to their horror, were told of the possibility that he would not be able to speak again or potentially meet major milestones that other children will achieve.

Over time, his parents realised that Owen wasn’t babbling nonsense but was repeating his favourite lines from Disney movies. He had become a Disney dialogue dictionary, pulling phrases and lines verbatim and forming his worldview alongside Aladdin, Simba and others. Even though he was closed off, he was intelligent – learning how to read by watching the credits to every film.

“Life, Animated” documents Suskind’s growth as a 23-year-old into an independent adult dealing with holding down jobs, figuring out romance and living by himself. After spending all of his life watching Peter Pan’s escapades and Quasimodo’s struggle to fit in, Owen has become the star of his own story, with Disney acting as one of his beloved sidekicks; contextualising the major moments of his life.

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Owen Suskind, the focus of the documentary

Even as he matures, his emotions and the way he interacts with the world has been and almost always will be funnelled through a patchwork of dialogue from his childhood. It’s these many moments speckled throughout the film that we get to see exactly what Owen is thinking. When he moves away for the first time, he lies in bed watching Bambi, specifically the heartbreaking scene where Bambi’s mother is shot. Without saying anything, Owen feels; He feels lonesome and misses his Mother.

Through Owen’s eyes, the many moments in Disney that I may have balked at have a newer sheen of deeper meaning: ones that are articulate in how they deal with learning how to belong, or how to deal with adversity during dark times. Maybe the repeated viewings have accumulated to an intimate knowledge that can only be gleamed by religious studying.

But such an approach using Disney as a bible to base oneself upon becomes clear in how it has flaws. Not everything in Disney translates accurately over to real life. There is a gaping point after the “happy ever after” that Disney films rarely account for – the complicated stuff that happens later on in the story. Even though Owen is 23, how do you approach topics like sex using examples from the films? – the solution to the question is cautiously attempted by a stand-in-mentor.

Life, Animated is a powerful documentary that refuses to shy away from the family’s struggles by covering things up. It shows the group effort to help Owen transition towards where he wants to be, validating who he is and not forcing him away towards where they want him to be. While at times twee, it packs emotional punch in its intimate interviews and the use of vivid animation to clarify how someone on the autistic spectrum thinks. By the end of the film, I genuinely do think I have seen someone change on camera during the short period.

Overall “life, animated” provides a stark look at the reality that many people affected by autism face on a daily basis, and perfectly demonstrates the demands that a modern society can have on people afflicted.

8/10 stars.

 

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