I find it a bit ironic that both film number 2 and 49 have a strong theme with stars- the evening star, to be specific. I do love the name Evangeline for the evening/wishing star. And I get misty every time I see Ray up there with her. So far, this is the only time the death of a bug has made me tear up—though Pixar came close with WALL-E and gave the audience a fright by nearly killing off the cockroach.
I’ve spent many a night and many a wish looking up at the fireflies that got stuck in that big, bluish-black thing (it is entirely possible that there will be a Lion King reference in every chapter; be prepared. Yes, that was another reference. Ten points if you got it). In reality, stars and space have always amazed me. Maybe it was attending Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Maybe it was early and repeated viewings of Lost in Space (the one with the kids from space camp). Or maybe I was always secretly looking for Mufasa (for self-preservation, I would like to take this moment to acknowledge that I do, in fact, know that Mufasa is a fictional character voiced by James Earl Jones.) Regardless of the cause, I’ve often trained my eyes skyward.
In Alaska, I’ve found myself looking at the stars even more. Well, in the fall and winter at least. In the summer we have 18 hours of daylight—not so great for star gazing. But the northern lights/ aurora borealis make appearances in the fall and winter, though on no particular schedule. I, on the other hand, am looking at the starry sky every night like clockwork when I take my dogs out. I’m not always looking for the aurora (though I certainly wouldn’t turn it away); because there is less light pollution in our newly adopted state, the stars are brighter and more plentiful here. Added to that, we live in the boonies—even by Alaska standards.
Disney returns to the stars just like the general population does. There’s a certain majesty and magic quality to the night sky; for a studio that uses those qualities as main plot points, the path is clear. We’re enchanted by the stars as people have been for thousands of years. Even knowing what they are and how they are made doesn’t diminish our interest. Disney uses that knowledge to further the telling of a great story. Or rather, many great stories. I’m anxious to see how many other Disney animated features highlight the stars.
Disney is in the business of dreams, so to speak. Making dreams come true is what they do; in the parks, in the movies, in the merchandise. You can ever arrange to have a Disney Princess call your little one on the telephone. Walt said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It’s a quote that’s always inspired me to pursue whatever dream I was pursuing at the time. Acting, trapeze, seeking employment at Disney, being a better person, writing. My current dreams are writing a book, working for Disney, and being a homeowner. I’m following the old two birds-one stone path with the book being about Disney and educating myself in all things Disney animation (well, all feature film things). My fear with house-hunting is settling. I see potential and beauty in nearly everything; often that potential leads me to spend more restoring something old rather than purchasing or making something new for less cost.
I was beyond excited when Disney first started promoting The Princess and the Frog. It had been years since there was a new princess, and a return to hand drawn animation to boot! I was a kid in a candy store. I was so excited, in fact, that no film could have lived up to my expectations. When I first saw the film in theatres, I was disappointed. But since then, I’ve realized the issue was my expectations, not any shortcoming of the film. Dr. Facilier is the most frightful villain for me, other than Scar (who can kill their brother and nephew without ever regretting it? Plus, with the Nazi-hyenas, the allusion to Hitler is too terrifying). There isn’t the same flow between storytelling and singing, but Disney was a bit rusty in the animated musical department.
I was glad to see a strong female lead, going after her dreams and not letting the world tell her she shouldn’t. I remember how pleased I was when Pocahontas was released—finally, a Disney princess from a culture like mine! I was happy that Disney provided a heroine that African-American girls could be excited about, while children of all ages and genders would learn from her headstrong, iron willed character.
Dreams always have a prominent spot in Disney feature films. Or at least they do so far. Dreams affect character development—in fictional characters and real people alike. Tiana, for instance, has the dream of opening her own restaurant. Her dream takes over her life: she works multiple jobs to save up for it, she rarely sleeps, and she never goes out with friends. Then the time comes when she has to choose between pursuing her dream and following her heart.
It’s a common conundrum: following your heart or pursuing your dream. In fact, just last week a relative stranger (I had seen her once before in the computer lab where I tutor, seeking advice on using Skype; she is mostly stranger) asked the other tutor present and myself what we would do if we were offered our dream job overseas, but our husband and aging dog had to stay behind and sell the house (and wait for the dog to die, apparently). I knew my answer immediately: I would stay with my family. Of course, my dream job is writing for Disney (preferably animated features, thus my Disney-education in animated film history), which is not located overseas. She was enthralled with the idea of being surrounded by a different culture. I couldn’t imagine not spending as much time as possible with my ailing dog.
But I am unusual in that respect. I feel very deeply, which means I love very deeply. I still sadden when I think of my childhood dog, Duke. He was with us for so long; how could I not be there at the end? The same goes today for my current three dogs. A customer at the bookstore where I worked for 3.5 years once told me the death of a pet hurt less when you have children. My mother, from whom I get my deep-love temperament, disagreed. It’s an entirely different kind of love one feels for a child versus a pet. Perhaps that is why we love our dogs so much: they aren’t merely a pet for us. They are a member of our family.
The other tutor said for her, she would go. She is of the same temperament as the other woman. I love a good adventure (thus moving to Alaska from Florida), but I only went on this adventure because my family—my husband, our three dogs—would be joining us. In fact, we all five shared a plane (well, along with the other hundred or so people traveling; what I mean is that our dogs were on the same plane as us).
The woman left, unsure of what she would do. While leaving Alaska to go to California or Florida and write for Disney would cause some trepidation—we love the culture here, where local business still booms and children ride their bikes to the gas station to get a coke—and so choosing between lower 48 culture with my dream job and living in the place I fell in the love with…it would be difficult. But moving overseas and leaving my family behind? I don’t have to hesitate to answer. There isn’t enough money in the world for that.