Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aladdin and boy Disney

As a kid I got to experience a very interesting change over with Disney. Now growing up I was a HUGE Disney fan, in fact to this day at the drop of a hat I can sing "Under the Sea", "Sing Sweet Nightingale", "I Wanna be like You" and "When you wish upon a star". I have also decorated my bathroom in Disney, just because I can.
When I was little though I did notice something very disturbing: Disney was not very boy friendly. Men, and princes in particular, tended to be shallow stock characters with so little personality they sometimes didn't even get a name. Honestly, without looking it up, what's the name of the prince from Snow White? Sleeping Beauty? Cinderella? If they had a personality it usually matched the girl's, just wanting a life different then the one they had. The only time we ever got an interesting male character was when they were animals, like Robin Hood, 101 Dalmations and The Jungle Book (And don't tell me Mowgli was interesting, he was a whiny naked annoyance that Bagheera should've eaten when his bones were soft). The closest we ever got was arguably Peter Pan, but his masculinity is always undermined by the fact that he's usually played by a woman in a short haircut.
Then in 1991 the change began. Disney released the blockbuster hit Beauty and the Beast, featuring a male character with more depth than a tea spoon. Beast was a tortured soul, cursed with the impossible task of trying to find someone to fall in love with him while being in the body of a monster. This is such a huge jump from nameless prince who for some reason doesn't want to get married that it made people's heads spin. Even Belle is a decent character, being a woman who dares to think and read rather than swoon over the village idiot. I really think the best part of this film is when he first abducts her and there strong personalities clash against each other in some spectacular dialogue. My issue is that for me it all falls apart in the end when Beast ends up becoming the nameless prince from all the rest of the films. I'm sure the king and queen of fictional France didn't name their child Beast. I still love this movie and get's a A for effort but the flick that came out the next year really took it to "A Whole New World"(Ah, you see what I did there?)

In 1992 the world gave us Aladdin, the first Disney movie with a real three-dimensional human male character. When we first see him he has this whole song about how he lives by ducking guards and stealing bread with a monkey while he parkours around a happy version of the Middle East. Directly after that though we get a glimpse at his sorrow for having to live by the skin of his teeth and stepped on by the upper class. His cool lifestyle of lying and trickery even messes him up when his lies become too much for him to handle while he's trying to keep the princess interested and keep his promise to the Genie. His whole story arch is how he realizes that he doesn't have to live vicariously through lies in order to be happy. Cheesy yes, but to this day it's still one of Disney's most compelling story archs.
After Aladdin the sky was the limit. Male characters kept being interesting, cool, and they always had names. Disney became more comfortable focusing films on the guys, including Hercules, Tarzan and The Incredibles. Even the non-humans stepped it up, in films like Lion King and Wall-E the guys stole the show. It became a golden age to be a boy and a Disney fan. My music repertoire now includes songs like "Be a Man (Donny Osmond, for a nice LDS tie-in)", "One step Ahead", and "Go the Distance".
This time didn't exclude the ladies. Like in Beauty and the Beast, the female characters got a boost to personality as well. Characters like Esmeralda, Megarah, Mulan, Tiana and Elasti-Girl have given girl power a new meaning and became classics almost overnight.
So who's your favorite Disney guy?
-JOE

6 comments:

  1. By they way, without looking it up, Snow White's prince is named Ferdinand, Cinderella's is simply Prince Charming, and Princess Aurora (the true name of Sleeping Beauty) is married to Prince Philip.

    But yes, those are basically faceless princes.

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  2. Wait, what about Taran from the Black Cauldron? Taran was basically like a Luke Skywalker hero but he was far more interesting then any of the Disney Princes and his movie came out in 1985.

    The Black Cauldron had to have been made for boys in mind. It had weird creatures, dark fantasy, a very frightening villain, and a scary army of undead. This movie is very underrated and an overlooked piece of Disney cinema. Also, it WASN'T a musical.

    It was a pretty flawed movie and lacked the Character development that these other movies had. Still, I think it deserves honorable mention for it's ambition and wanting to reach out to the males.

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  3. While Mowgli may be a whiner, in the books he is a much more interesting character, so I would recommend reading the Jungle Books (yes, plural). I actually seriously dislike Belle in Beauty and the Beast because she's an intellectual snob who doesn't change. Everything must be done her way. Notice Beast changes for her, not really the other way around (and I have no idea what his real name is).
    I think my favorite Disney guys are always the ones with attitude. Aladdin will always hold a special place in my heart. I also like Flynn from Tangled, Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet. Since Disney released Avengers, can I list some of them too? ;-)

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  4. Flynn and Prince Naveen are both pretty awesome.

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  5. Hmmm. My favorite Disney hero. That's hard. I do love Prince Phillip because he's a boss. Yeah, he had some help from some fairies, but he was going up against a dragon! I think it's okay for a hero to get an assist every once in a while. lol.

    That being said it's probably a tie between Phillip and.... Captain Phoebus, Flynn, the Beast, Quasimodo (basically nicest ugly guy ever... in Disney's version), Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet, and Jack Skellington.

    Maybe I can't just pick one...

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