Tag Archives: Disney Princess

Top 5 Disney “Princesses”

I love Disney. Can you tell?

Despite its flaws as a company and an artistic entity, Disney has just enough redeeming qualities to keep us coming back. It has pioneered animation ever since its inception, creating beautiful, moving stories based on fairytales, folk stories, and literature, and it has also utilized and inspired new technology, such as fantasound in the 1940’s.

Walt Disney has built an empire out of his versions of stories and characters, whether you love them, hate them, or love to hate them, and it’s impossible to deny the influence his creations have had on many of our childhoods. Men have the overall advantage in society, to put it mildly, and so many prominent female figures in the media become role models to the growing women of the future, for better or worse. As I’ve said in the past, many people like to focus on the negative impact of Disney’s views and portrayals of women, but by now, you know me. With some exceptions, I like to be a bit more fair-minded, and observe how far the company has come in its near-decade of existence.

As a once-girl-now-woman, I’d like to share with you my top 5 favorite female Disney characters. They can be characters that I have liked the most or ones that have influenced me and my worldview in these 20 or so short years of life, but one thing is for sure: they are all awesome women in my mind. They practically need no introduction.

 

5. Merida

 

While she still gets the honor of breaking into my top 5, Merida ranks the lowest for me because of her youthful obnoxiousness. She has many admirable traits, one of which is wanting to go against the prim-and-proper future that her mother has planned out for her, but she’s somewhere between Ariel and Aurora when it comes to emotional and mental maturity. She wants what she wants and is willing to do stupid things to get it, barely questioning her motivations or the people offering her easy solutions at all.

I’m not saying she’s not relatable, because she definitely is. She wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t seriously relate to her. It’s just that some of her antics are like watching a kid throw a tantrum. They might have a good reason for being upset, but it can still be an annoying way to try and resolve the problem.

 

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I felt the need to grow up more quickly than the kids around me. Immature characters need something more for me to really, deeply admire them, and while Merida is good, she’s not the best I’ve seen. Her movie was also a lot smaller scale than what many people were expecting from the trailers, so while it’s not a bad coming-of-age, mother-and-daughter-understanding narrative, it’s also not as epic and engaging as most Disney and Pixar fare.

But regardless, Merida is rebellious and wild, much like her stunning CG hair. I love her design, and as someone with Scottish heritage, it’s nice to see and hear some Scottish influence gracing the mainstream silver screen. Merida also likes what one might traditionally described as “boy things,” and is very proficient as a rider and an archer. It’s refreshing to see that, by the end of her movie, she doesn’t have to compromise her hobbies or her tomboy-ish nature as part of the growing-up process. She teaches her strict mother a lesson while learning an important one of her own: communication and understanding are what grow relationships, not trying to force one another to change.

Merida is clearly a “girl” more than she is a “woman,” and that’s okay. It works for her story and character arc, and at the end of the day, that’s all I really ask. I just like to see some more growth into womanhood, and what that means.

 

4. Belle

 

Belle is kick-ass, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. She stands up to a beast twice her size and doesn’t take any of his childish nonsense. She’s beautiful, but she is neither shy nor jerky about it. She reads in a time when women aren’t expected to, and does so openly and without apology. She sees Gaston’s rapey swagger and raises him a one-way, face-first trip to the mud.

Is Belle a bit too perfect? It’s certainly possible, but she’s also the kind of person many of us wish we could be, without appearing too preachy as a role model (see Cinderella). She’s selfless, gorgeous, quirky, brave, snarky, and pretty confident in her own skin. She loves her family and would do anything for them, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness. She also seeks adventure and excitement in a life of perceived drudgery and stigmatization. So while she may be a bit too reasonable and too self-actualized from the beginning of the story, she is still very relatable and likeable.

As mentioned before, I also love her voice acting and reflexive expressions. She shows a lot of her character through those attributes alone.

 

Beauty and the Beast is less of a story about Belle’s growth and more about the growth of the Beast, through her eyes. Yes, she learns to love someone she once feared and despised, but she ultimately teaches her prince more than he taught her. You could argue that she is feminist improvement of Cinderella, the woobie who exists to laud the values of Christian martyrdom and patience, by being smarter, more outspoken, and more assertive about her boundaries. And while I do think that Cinderella gets more criticism than she deserves, when looking at the intent of Mr. Disney, I wouldn’t entirely disagree with this idea. My reading of that story is a more modern take, and I admit that.

But I digress.

On a more self-serving note, Belle is also the first brunet princess. Represent, brown-haired ladies!

 

3. Moana

 

Moana is a small-island girl who longs for adventure on the high seas. As someone who has always loved the ocean, I found a kindred spirit in her right away.

Moana is young and uncertain, but reasonably so, given her upbringing. She has a good sense of duty and family, and though her passion is not encouraged by her parents (out of fear for her safety), she bonds with her grandmother over their mutual fascination with the sea, which kind of bridges the two worlds she inhabits. She struggles with her desire to sail and her desire to lead her people, as she sees the two options as mutually exclusive. A good chief must think of her people and do all that she can to help them, and while her parents have taught her the traditional way to be a chief, and have made good points about the dangers of the ocean, her destiny is to go there, and the fact that they have shielded her from the outside world has not adequately prepared her for what she must do.

This story may resonate particularly well with Millennials, many of whom feel that they were not properly prepared for the demands and stresses of the “adult world.”

 

Moana finds an unlikely teacher in Maui, the cocky but secretly scarred demi-god who is responsible for the problems that threaten to engulf her island. She learns a great deal from him while also teaching him what it truly means to be a hero of man…and woman. Moana is a force of unyielding love and forgiveness, even in the face of her own self-doubt; she shows Maui and even Te Ka that they don’t have to be defined by their past and the people who have hurt them. She also finds joy and even strength in the discovery and embracing of her heritage, especially at the start of the film.

She’s just a good, good character. I’m not sure what more I can say about her that isn’t just dancing around that main point.

 

2. Mulan

 

Disney’s first fighting princess, and to quote Lindsay Ellis, “the only princess with a body count.”

But seriously, Mulan is awesome. Her movie, while simplifying a lot about Chinese culture, is very feminist and even queer. Mulan disguises herself as a man in order to join the Chinese army in place of her ailing father, and while she initially struggles to adapt, she finds more freedom and satisfaction than she ever had in the restrictive roles of “woman” and “daughter.” Mulan finds strengths that she never knew she had and as a result, she saves her country almost single-handedly. It is so satisfying to see her rewarded, and to see the people who initially dismissed her enlightened or receiving comeuppance for their stubborn clinging to the past.

Her movie is by no means perfect or free of problematic elements, much like many Disney movies. As I said, Mickey Mouse-ifying Chinese culture or just using it as an exotic backdrop is definitely patronizing and annoying. But at the same time, you might call it a crucial step in Disney’s learning process, which has resulted in more culturally-respectful movies like Moana. And however meager it may seem, it does count as Chinese representation in a mainstream, well-liked medium, which I think makes it overall a positive step forward despite its flaws.

Mulan shares many of the traits of women on this list. She loves her family, but goes against them to follow what she knows is right. She is smart when her confidence is bolstered, and she finds unconventional solutions to problems, like defeating the entire Hun army with a well-timed avalanche. Mulan finds herself by going against the grain and doing what was previously considered “man’s work,” but unlike Merida, she finds more of a balance between the feminine and masculine aspects of her life. While we don’t get too deep into her life prior to becoming a soldier, we can assume that she liked certain aspects of womanhood. Just not the whole “get auctioned off to the highest bidder and be his submissive bride and breedmule for life” thing. She clearly isn’t wild about that, on top of not being very good at it.

 

Mulan doesn’t fit into either the male or female world perfectly, either by Western or Eastern standards. She excels in the in-between, and that is what people like about her.

The only really disappointing thing she does is turn down a position on the Emperor’s council, but it might be somewhat unfair to expect her to be completely selfless and keep pushing the boundaries for Chinese women everywhere. She is only one person, after all, and the entire impetus of her story is the desire to keep her family together. It makes sense that she would want to appreciate the fruits of her labor in person.

Mulan is a “girl power” character, but her praise is by no means cheap or unearned. Sometimes that phrase is used as a derogative, accompanied by an eye roll or a sneer, but those people – let’s face it, many of them are men – are usually less concerned about balanced female representation than they are threatened by any kind of social politics “invading their movies.” They seemingly ignore how many movies that they love have explicit or implicit political themes, and simply bash on increased diversity as being only “for diversity’s sake.” See the new Star Wars trilogy as an example of this.

 

At times Mulan can come across as a bit bland, but her movie is fun and funny and full of likeable characters, which makes up for that in my humble opinion. While it’s not my favorite, I come back to Mulan probably more than any other Disney movie. It brings me joy, and a large part of that is due to Mulan herself. She’s a quiet badass, changing the world one slaughtered army at a time.

 

  1. Esmeralda

 

 

She may not be an official Disney Princess, but I’m counting her, goddamn it!

Esmeralda is my favorite female Disney character, and I find her movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to be criminally underrated. While it deviates heavily from the book and has some cringe-worthy “comedic” bits, it also contains adult themes that Disney has never tackled before, or ones that were only lightly touched-upon in the past. Lust, religion, xenophobia, genocide, parental abuse; these and many more appear very blatantly in Hunchback, making it a very dark and powerful story about human nature. The score and the art design are also very striking, making the story all the more memorable in Disney’s arguably homogenous lineup.

The movie has some unfortunate depictions of the gypsies as thieves and murders, but some of it could be accepted as them needing to protect themselves and their people from Frollo’s spies. Many people also complain that Esmeralda is overly-sexualized and how this is a harmful stereotype for many female minorities, but again, problematic elements do not necessarily cancel out good characters. Esmeralda is sexualized in part because Frollo objectifies her, and while he never learns to see her as a person, Quasimodo does.

 

As a person, Esmeralda is funny as hell, particularly in her fight with Phoebus and the latter half of the Festival of Fools. She’s witty and snarky when the moment calls for it, but she’s also proactive as a heroine; she is fiercely defensive of her people, demanding without apology that they be treated just like everyone else. While she does gasp at Quasimodo at first, she is quick to befriend him, showing that her convictions are strong and she is truly a kind, understanding person. She really does believe in freedom and equality for all people, and she can and will fight for it.

 

Esmeralda, much like Belle, is a self-actualized character from the get-go; she knows who she is and what she’s about without needing to learn or grow very much. What makes her compelling, however, is her bravery in facing the challenges of her people and of the time. She fights back against soldiers who try to steal her hard-earned money. She stops Quasimodo’s humiliation at the festival and stands up to Frollo, not knowing the depth of Frollo’s madness and his growing lust for her. Esmeralda risks her own safety for what is right, despite her fear, and though she lives in such a cruel world, she is still kind and forgiving to those who prove that they deserve it. Adversity sucks, but seeing such a good character arise in those circumstances is all the more admirable.

And while she does need to be rescued, Esmeralda is not a traditional helpless damsel. Her plight makes sense and she resists as much as she is able.

 

Not to play into her criticism, but Esmeralda is also gorgeous. I’d be lying if I said she didn’t make me question a few things as a child. One physical thing of note is her piercing green eyes. In the past, green eyes were thought to be a sign of evil, and many of Disney’s early villains do possess that feature. It just goes to subvert what Frollo and society say about Esmeralda, namely that she is wicked and deceitful. She is exactly who she presents herself to be, unlike Frollo, who hides his sinister desires and motives behind the mantle of God and His will.

 

So that is my list. Do you agree? Disagree? Who are your favorite Disney women?

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Marge’s Outstanding Disney Achievement Awards

 

So, what’s the best and worst of Disney, you ask?

…You didn’t? Oh…

…Well, here you go anyway!

 

Overall Film Quality:

 

Worst of the Worst Award – Chicken Little

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Disney’s first solo venture into the world of CG is, shockingly, their worst. Only Home on the Range comes close to the sheer miasma of badness that this stinker emits.

The plot is confused (do we focus on the aliens or the baseball?), the characters are one-note and/or unlikable (I would happily fry Buck Cluck up, KFC style); and the animation is somewhere between “meh” and hideous.

Take my advice. Just don’t. Also, put this down for Worst Humor Award and Worst Father Award too.

 

Most Artful AwardFantasia

 

It’s like going to an orchestra concert and letting your mind wander and create stories to the music that you hear. It is a series of stories and scenes illustrated creatively, accompanying famous classical pieces. I’d give it praise for introducing kids to this kind of music by itself, but it also went and gave us the predecessor to surround sound.

Case closed.

 

Most Beautiful Award (2-D)The Little Mermaid

This movie started the Disney Renaissance; it reminded everyone of the artistic potential of 2-D animation. It looks absolutely amazing.

 

Most Beautiful Award (3-D) Frozen

No contest.

 

Best Story AwardBeauty and the Beast

Can you feel the love tonight!
Can you feel the love tonight!

Not only did Disney successfully adapt this fairytale, they improved it.

A better reason for the Beast to get pissy with Belle’s father (the catalyst to the plot), a better reason for the Beast to be protective of his rose(s) (his last hope for humanity that is wilting more everyday), better stakes (loss of humanity, loss of life at least three times), a damn good villain (who probably gave Hans from Frozen some pointers), and it took some time (which the clever writers never specify) for an actual romance/friendship to develop.

 

Best Humor AwardPeter Pan

Say what you want about the Genie or Kronk or anyone else. Complain about the racist indians. Okay. Are we good now?

Because this movie has the BEST slapstick ever. Any scene with Hook, Smee, and/or the crocodile kills me every time. Peter’s not that bad either; we get some funny fight scenes out of him.

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Worst Music Award  – Home on the Range

 

I hate this movie. Also…Alan Menken…why?

 

Best Musicals AwardThe Little Mermaid

This was another tough one, but I think that this film has the (consistently) best songs in any Disney movie. They are all solid, memorable hits, except for maybe the “Daughters of Triton” song from the beginning.

Plus, “Part of Your World” was the “Let It Go” of the 90’s.

 

Best Score Award – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Here is just a sample:

 

It is epic, awesome, and fitting (latin choruses in a movie starring a gorgeous Catholic church).

 

Best Straightforward Adaptation AwardSnow White and the Seven Dwarves

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Probably the most faithful. Fitting, as it was Disney’s first venture into feature-length films.

 

Most “Child-Friendly” Elements Award Pinocchio

For those who think Hunchback of Notre Dame is Disney’s darkest film…

I have seen this movie maybe 3 times in my life…That’s more than enough for me. It’s actually really unpleasant.

First, consider this:

 

Second, these:

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Stromboli

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Enjoy seeing these in your nightmares, kiddies!

 

Most Creative Animation Award – Alice in Wonderland

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In contrast to the vastly inferior live-action version, animated Alice’s world is very dark and minimalist at times. It feels as though anything could appear out of the shadows next, and over the course of the story, anything does. It’s a clever choice, and boy does it bring out the colors of everyone and everything else.

Take a note, overstuffed CGI fail-fest: less is more.

 

Character-Based:

 

Worst Villain Award – Edgar, The Artistocats

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Least competent, least noteworthy, and least entertaining to watch. He has his moments, but for the most part, I just don’t care. The only thing more idiotic than him attempting to kill some cats because they are inheriting a fortune is that the lady is willing the fortune to her cats in the first place. Also, why would Edgar think he was going to get that money in the first place, and why would the lady even consider him? Does she not have any family? Friends? Charitable organizations that she supports?

 

Most Awesome Villain Award – Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty

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Kick-ass voice actress, amazing design, elegance, class, insanity, intimidation, power. And need we forget, self-proclaimed “Mistress of All Evil”?

As far as the “I do it because I’m evil” villains go, she is the boss.

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Worst Villain Song Award – “Mother Knows Best”, Tangled

 

Except for the sinister “don’t ever ask to go outside again” line, this song is all goof and no bite. Lady Tremaine was a better controlling mother, and she didn’t even get a song.

 

Best Villain Song Award – “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, The Little Mermaid

A crazy faustian waltz filled with lies and seduction, and it ends on one hell of an awesome crescendo. It has all of “Gaston”‘s sentiment (“I’m totally not a villain. I actually a really awesome person”), mixed with undertones of “Hellfire”‘s creepy sexual overtones.

It’s only real issue is probably the lengthy dialogue throughout, but even then, it’s a great, sinister listen.

 

Best Villain Motivation Award – Judge Claude Frollo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

God told him to do it. No, really.

Frollo is scary because there are people out there like him. He’s greedy, but repressed. When he has power, he abuses it for his own ends, but claims that it’s all for the greater good. How can that not be awesome?

Frollo's_Evil_Smile

 

Two more unrelated things of note: “Hellfire,” and Tony Jay. That is all.

 

Scariest Villain Award – The Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

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Look at it. LOOK AT IT.

Every time this woman stares into the camera, I dare you not to shiver. It’s like she knows you’re there, and once she’s offed Snow White, she’s coming for you.

Also, the “Thirsty?” scene is f%#*ed up.

The Queen pre-hagdom is pretty creepy too; her virtually frozen face, the way her eyes randomly widen and narrow while she speaks, her voice (Lucille La Verne took out her false teeth to do the Hag voice), her magic mirror slave. She’s one of the weaker villains character and motivation-wise, but her fear factor is not to be denied.

As she prepares her disguise potion, the hag’s cackle and scream of fright are particularly chilling.

 

As an honorable mention though, I’d like to point out that this guy exists:

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Disney: The most wholesome factory of night terrors since 1923. Probably fitting, since it was also founded in October.

 

Most Entertaining Villain – Rattigan, The Great Mouse Detective

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He’s voiced by Vincent Price; it’s a match made in Hell.

So what if you can tell he’s the villain from 3 miles off? He’s so gleefully evil. He prances, for Hell’s sake.

Just watch him and try not to get into his performance.

Also, watch the climax to see him become truly terrifying.

 

Best Villain Laugh Award – The Headless Horseman, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

This one was a three-way tie between Maleficent, Ursula, and good ole’ headless, but we’re not going for most iconic laugh here. As awesome as the first two are, they can’t match the simultaneous levels of crap-your-pants fright, maniacal glee, and even hilarity that comes from this guy.

 

Best Villain Lair – Bald Mountain, Fantasia

Hmmm, what’s an awesome lair for a villain? Inside a dead elephant, or sea monster? A fortress on top of a mountain?

How about the mountain itself, where Hell’s minions come out and party with you?

 

Hell yes.

 

Best Villain Sidekick – Kronk, The Emperor’s New Groove

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I love LeFou, don’t get me wrong, but Kronk is funnier and plays off his villain, Yzma, much more comedically. That is what elevates him from potentially annoying to lovable and hilarious; he’s coupled with a jaded, smart sourpuss.

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Haha. Puns.

 

Scariest Non-Villain Award – The Beast, Beauty and the Beast

 

Finally A Non-Evil Queen Award – Elsa, Frozen

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Because responsibility is not your enemy, little girls. You can rock a gorgeous dress AND rule a kingdom, without having to marry and let your man do it for you.

 

Worst Princess Award – Snow White, from where do you think?

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Snow White ties with Aurora and Pocahontas for “Least Personality,” but Aurora isn’t ear-bleedingly obnoxious to listen to, and Pocahontas does more stuff plot-wise and is outdoorsy. This chick looks like she belongs on “Toddlers and Tiaras;” she wears way too much makeup and makes weird faces half of the time, but she acts like she’s five years old. I think she was coasting off of the popularity of Betty Boop.

It’s frustrating how much nothing she does, how stupidly naive she is.

 

Best Princess Award – Elsa, Frozen

Yes, her again. It counts because she was a princess til about the 1/4th point of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong. Belle will always have a special place in my heart, as will Mulan and Merida. Anna is pretty cool too (see what I did there?). But here’s the thing: Elsa has powers. Not just queen powers, but legit ICE MAGIC powers.

 

Worst Leading Man Award – Hercules, from guess where?

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I’ve got nothing really against the guy. He’s nice enough, but he’s kind of boring. Also, his motivations are kind of selfish.

 

If you’re wondering why Philip or the two other “Prince Charmings” didn’t end up here, it’s because there was nothing to work off of there. They do nothing (aside from Philip, who is awesome despite his blandness), and have no character traits to speak of.

 

Best Leading Man Award – Kristoff, Frozen

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Frozen has a bit of an unfair advantage; it’s the most recent animated film, and probably the most conscious of previous Disney “flaws”. But still, it must be counted.

Kristen may not have an epic fight with a dragon or a giant octopus-woman under his belt, but he’s got a lot of personality. Probably the most of all the Disney guys, aside from the Beast. He’s the closest to a guy you might actually know, but he’s never boring or standard. He’s Kristoff, the pungent reindeer king!

 

Worst Good Guy Sidekick Award – Buck, Home on the Range

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He’s obnoxious, plain and simple. He kung-fu kicks everywhere and thinks he’s too cool for school. He is a waste of thought and screen time.

 

Best Good Guy Sidekick Award – Olaf, Frozen

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I’m sorry to keep doing this to you.

Olaf could have been horribly annoying as far as sidekicks go, but he’s actually really cute and likable. Because he was a product of Anna and Elsa’s early (happy) childhood, it makes sense for him to be silly, upbeat, and naive. He also gets some really genuinely funny lines.

 

Jerk Protagonist Award – Mr. Toad, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

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I was tempted to go with Aladdin because he’s a compulsive liar and essentially a con man. But hey, it’s for love, so at least it’s a…good cause?

I also thought about Ichabod from the same above-mentioned movie, because he wants to marry Katrina to get her family farm and money, and he actually FANTASIZES ABOUT HER FATHER DYING. But again, the other two main characters, Brom Bones and Katrina, are just as jerky as he is, so it’s a more level playing field.

So how about a guy who destroys public property without thought, who is extremely prone to bad habits and fads?

Mr. Toad even goes to jail at one point, albeit for a crime he didn’t commit. At one point, he considers turning his life around and taking his friends more seriously (and less for granted). Does he?

Nope-timon

 

No lessons learned. No growth or change. What an asshole.

 

Sympathetic Villain Award – Elsa, Frozen

This one is cheating just a bit, but she’s mistaken for the villain by most of the rest of the cast and does inadvertently cause the dangerous predicament that the kingdom falls into.

Elsa is sort of like Frollo (repressed), but a nice person. She means well and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She gets an awesome moment of freedom and happiness, only to realize that she still has responsibilities, and must fix the hurt that she’s caused, even though she has no idea how.

 

Backhanded Best Mother Award – “the queen”, Sleeping Beauty

Queen-Leah

 

Do you know what is worse than offing mothers? Not even giving them f&#%ing names.

And really, there is no excuse for this. You named the father Stephan; why wouldn’t you toss out anything for the queen? She actually gave birth to Aurora! Doesn’t that count for anything?

Yes, in Disney Princess Enchanted Tales, they name her Leah. That doesn’t count. None of the direct-to-video stuff counts in the grand scheme of things.

 

Best Father Award – Maurice, Beauty and the Beast

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He’s quirky, supportive, and adorably bumbling. Plus, he deserves an award for all of the crap he endures throughout the course of the movie.

Also, just because you needed to see this:

 

Best Castle Award – Sleeping Beauty

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I just love the look and feel of it. So much detail, like a tapestry…

 

Marge’s Favorite Character Award – Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

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I love his voice actor (Sterling Holloway, who also did Winnie the Pooh btw), his madness, his design, his color scheme. What is not to like about a cat with seemingly god-like powers who may or may not be out to get you?

That’s the awesome punch of Alice in Wonderland‘s characters: you never know if they’re going to snap on you at some point. Are they harmless, or…?

The intrigue there is part of his appeal.

 

And I think that is quite enough for today. Needless to say, Disney has done some good work. Let’s hope we and our families get more quality entertainment in the future.

 

*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to Disney. None of the images or sounds belong to me.