Disney’s new Cinderella: Surprisingly Excellent

CinderellaWhen I heard that Disney was making a live action version of Cinderella at the 2013 D23 Expo, I wasn’t all that impressed with the idea. I’ve never been a big fan of the character (likely because I’m a guy, lol). Then they said that Kenneth Branagh was directing and that was enough to get me interested in seeing the movie. With an unknown actress in the title role, I was curious about what they were going to do with the story to make it different enough for the big screen.

The source material for the story is also relatively sparse and would make for a gruesome film.

Instead, what Disney has created is actually a film with far more depth than the story originally contained. One that is better than the source material and the animated film by a wide margin. The themes of forgiveness in the face of adversity, kindness in the face of evil and bravery in the face of abuse are well told. Lately, Disney has been taking a path of showing a villain in a different light, giving us a reason that they are being villainous. In this case, they do so very well, and instead of being something that helps us to understand the villain, it brings about more than that.

Spoilers follow.

Cinderella on her Horse in 2015 movieThe story is that of Ella, a girl with loving parents that teach her about magical things, how to be kind to all, and to have courage. After losing her mother, many years pass and her father finds love once again. But her stepmother isn’t ever able to understand Ella’s relationship with her father. But there’s more to her stepmother than that, and it shows us the kind of person that Ella could choose to become. Both Ella and her stepmother suffer huge amounts of loss in their lives, and both of them deal with this loss in very different ways. The stepmother allows this loss to consume her and inform every self-defeating decision that she makes, adding to her unhappiness. Ella looks at what she’s losing, and takes the time to grieve properly, and looks back toward the words of her mother: be kind and have courage.

Even when Ella is asked about how she’s living, and how she is treated, by a complete stranger in the forest, she says that “they do as well as they can.” She doesn’t badmouth them, even privately.

This is also the story of a prince that is looking for a bride. His father will not live for much longer, and wants him to take a princess as his bride to aid their country. There’s a moment, however, that is very human and heartfelt between the father and son. As the father is laying in bed, very weak, the prince and he have what could be their final conversation, and the prince curls up next to his father in the bed.

Another moment that Ella handles much better than her stepmother or step-sisters is upon hearing that her father had passed away on a trip. A friend that was on the journey comes with the news, bringing Ella the branch that she had asked for, telling her that she was all her father had thought about. Ella’s step-sisters were focused on what they didn’t get, and her step-mother was more focused on their current predicament, shouting “we’re ruined.” But Ella merely takes the branch and says “that must have been very hard for you” to the man that had to deliver the news. She handles it with a subtle grace.

It was the last thing that Ella says to her step-mother that takes this film to another level, and solidifies who they both are.

Hayley AtwellOne side note about the movie that often goes overlooked: Hayley Atwell (Agent CarterCaptain America: The First Avenger) plays Ella’s mother at the start of the film, showing her ability to play a very wide range of characters. I barely recognized her at first. She does an amazing job with what is a particularly small but very important role for the whole story.

I very highly recommend seeing this film. It’s playing with an animated short called Frozen Fever, so make sure to be on time. The short is well worth seeing and hilarious. It was great to see another story set in that world, now that Frozen 2 has been officially announced.

Disney’s Ultimate Plan: The road to Muppet Babies on DVD and Blu-ray

Muppet BabiesAbout a year ago, Disney made the ultimate purchase.  One that made my dreams of seeing more Star Wars films on the big screen possible.  They bought Lucasfilm.  It was this purchase that has actually completed a project that I am now convinced was the plan from the time they bought the Jim Henson Company back in 2004 for an undisclosed amount somewhere around $200 million.  It was actually a much longer journey as Disney had originally purchased distribution rights to all of the Jim Henson Company productions way back in 1991.  It took until September of 2008 before Disney finally rebranded the Muppets Holding Company as Muppet Studios, and placed it under new leadership.

With phase one complete, it was time to begin work on phase two: the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment.  This was a massive purchase costing $4.24 billion.  Disney needed to get control of Marvel Productions, and this was one way that they could do so.  They didn’t want to have any red-tape, even though they very likely had all of the rights they needed thanks to the acquisition of the Muppets.

Lastly, they needed the final piece of the equation.  They needed the footage that was used from both Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.  And the best way to do that?  Spend $4.06 billion on the purchase of Lucasfilm.  That brought in both franchises.

With the total cost being about $8.5 billion, Disney is very close to being able to achieve their ultimate goal: the release of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies on DVD and Blu-ray. I had been thinking about the overall purchases that Disney was making, and one day it dawned on me that all of these things were connected.  And with a little bit of research, I found that I wasn’t the only one to think of this.

From what I can gather, the only thing left standing in their way is a simple licensing of some footage from Ghostbusters from Sony Pictures.  Unless they plan on purchasing the rights to the Ghostbusters franchise (which I’d have no problem with, as they seem to just do everything right with the franchises they acquire).  There are also bits from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which belong to Paramount, among a few other things.  It seems to me that we’re as close as ever, and so is Disney.

That’s a pretty large investment so far, though, and I hope that the eventual release of this classic masterpiece of animation works out for them, and they make back the billions they’ve spent in gathering the exclusive rights to the series.

Disneynature Films – What’s next? Wings of Life and Bears

Disneynature Wings of LifeDisneynature is a company that was launched in April 2008 to bring back one of the staples of Walt Disney’s career: True-Life Adventures.  I’m a pretty big fan of the company, and their work, so it was with great interest that I’ve sought out more information about their projects on a regular basis.

I’ve seen most of their films, when they’ve had topics that have interested me, and so far I’ve only skipped one.  Starting with Earth, which was kind of a summary version of the BBC’s Planet Earth, I’ve been captivated by this series of films.  Oceans was a disappointment to me, spending too much time on climate change and not enough time on the strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit the deep.  The narration was lacking as well, with too little talking when we needed some more explanation of what we were seeing.

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The New Star Wars Trilogy, Episodes VII – IX: Disney and Lucasfilm Present

Star Wars - The New Trilogy - Disney and Lucasfilm PresentSince the announcement that Disney bought Lucasfilm, there has been a wide range of reactions to it, from the very optimistic and positive, to the stunningly negative and outrageous.  There are many reasons to be optimistic though, and I feel there are no valid arguments against Disney at this point.  Within the few years, Disney has made some pretty smart moves with their acquisitions.  Let’s take a look at that to see why Star Wars is safe in the House of Mouse.

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Disney’s Prep & Landing – A New Holiday Classic, Returning with Short, Sequel

Christmas 2009 came with a new gift from Disney • Pixar: Prep & Landing.  This is a new holiday classic featuring a pair of elves that prepare each home for the arrival of Santa Claus.  They make sure that the children are asleep, and any potential problems are neutralized before he comes to deliver presents to the home.  It only took the first few minutes to make it one of my favorite Christmas specials that I have ever seen.  I must have watched it a few dozen times last year.

I learned something very exciting today.  Not only is Prep & Landing going to air again this year (hoping for a Blu-ray release some day), but they’re also working on a sequel!  Now, the sequel isn’t due until Christmas 2011, is a very long wait.

I was a bit disappointed that I would have to wait another year to have another adventure in the world that was so thoroughly established in the original, and then I saw that they are releasing a short this year as well!

I remember the first time that I watched Prep & Landing.  I was blown away.  Not only was it a very short special, but it had a lot of heart and when it ended, I wanted more.  I didn’t expect it to happen, and not this quickly.  Here’s what I know about each new adventure.  The short – Operation: Secret Santa, and the sequel – Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice.

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