Focusing on Family

I don’t know if I’d say that I’m done with my Disney animation project, as there’s still a lot more to go, but I am branching out to other things, especially now that the sun is setting early enough that I can watch longer movies after dark.

Some patterns I noticed:

  • The movies definitely got longer over time. Early movies were in the 70-75 minute range, later ones closer to 2 hours.
  • The earlier “fairytale” movies stuck closer to the stories, though sometimes with added cute sidekicks, while they started really adapting and creating their own stories as they went along.
  • The heroines didn’t actually do much in the earlier movies. Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty has maybe ten lines in the whole movie. Their roles are much more fleshed out in later films.
  • The villains didn’t get songs until the Renaissance era.

The main pattern I’ve noticed about what I guess you could call the “next generation” films, the ones that came along in the computer animation era, is an emphasis on family over romance. I wonder how much of that is from the Pixar influence. We did still have the fairytale romance in Tangled (though with it made clear they weren’t getting married anytime soon), but after that, the stories have been more about family than about romance.

Frozen deconstructed the typical Disney romance by making it look just like those love-at-first-sight, let’s sing a duet and get engaged relationships, only to throw a huge monkey wrench in it. The important relationship in both of the Frozen movies was between the sisters. Then in Encanto we had a whole movie that was about family, with no romance for the main character. Moana was largely about the heroine trying to save her family and home. Raya and the Last Dragon was about trying to reunite a family and involved a “found family” coming together before they were all able to find their original families again. I haven’t yet watched Strange World, but it’s apparently about a family having adventures.

It’s not that I have anything against romance, but the romances as presented in a lot of the Disney films weren’t exactly healthy. Teenage girls were falling in love with and marrying guys they’d barely interacted with after falling in love at first sight. It’s nice seeing a bit more variety, with other relationships, especially when the characters are really too young to be getting engaged or married. In the Frozen films, the emphasis on the sisters allowed the romance to develop more organically in the background.

There was some precedent for this, since Lilo and Stitch was all about family. They also got into the found family theme in The Jungle Book. Mulan was fighting to save her father (though she also ended up with a romance). What’s new is putting that in the “princess” movies, as well as them having different kinds of princesses who do more than fall in love.

And now that I’ve mentioned Encanto, I have “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” running through my head again.

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