The Disney Princess Project: “Tangled”

Frying pans. Who knew, right?Previously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Frog
Brave

For the moment we end The Disney Princess Project with “Tangled,” the 50th animated feature released by Disney. “Tangled” is a retelling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel, but this time with a thief instead of a prince and some lovable rogues thrown in the story.

The film starts off with a prologue where we find out a magical flower was formed by a drop from the sun falling to the earth. An old woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) finds the flower and uses the properties to help her stay youthful forever. Hundreds of years later a king and queen are expecting a child when the queen falls ill. The citizens of the kingdom go searching for help and find the flower, taking it back to the kingdom. The powers of the flower help save the queen and she gives birth to a beautiful daughter with blonde hair. The princess, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), holds the flower’s power inside of her which means Mother Gothel breaks into the castle one night to steal the baby. Mother Gothel then takes the baby to a tall secluded tower in the middle of the forest and raises the princess as her own, never letting Rapunzel go outside.

At the time of Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, Rapunzel asks Mother Gothel if she can see the festival of lanterns that happens every year on her birthday. Unbeknownst to her the lanterns she sees every year are to bring her home, but she sees them every year and wishes to see them up close. Mother Gothel forbids her from doing so as the world is a dangerous place. Shortly after this happens, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) climbs up Rapunzel’s tower to escape his fellow thieves, the Stabbington Brothers (Ron Perlman and John DiMaggio), and the palace guards. He is knocked unconscious by Rapunzel who questions Flynn before deciding to have him take her to the lanterns. The two leave the tower and head off on a journey through the forest where they grow closer while Mother Gothel schemes to keep the princess to herself.

After the release of “The Princess and the Frog” Disney changed the title of this film as it initially was going to be “Rapunzel.” According to the Los Angeles Times this was because a lot boys shockingly did not want to see a movie with the word “princess” in the title. Disney then decided to amp up the presence of Flynn Rider in the marketing campaign as part of the intention to get more young boys to see the film. Because of how Disney marketed the film, you might be tempted to initially approach the movie as having Flynn as the main character. I advise you to not do this because the film isn’t great if you approach it as him being the main character. If you approach the film as having Rapunzel as the main character, it is a fantastic film.

The main problem with viewing Flynn as the main character is in some parts he feels a bit underdeveloped. As the movie develops we learn more about him which does help give him depth, but for most of the movie he really doesn’t feel like a compelling character. This is also the chief problem with the film as there are numerous characters who steal the light when they’re in a scene with Flynn, including Rapunzel’s pet chameleon Pascal and a horse named Maximilian who is with the royal guard. But Flynn does manage to become an interesting character by the end of the film, which is more than some Disney movies have managed to do.

“Tangled” is the first and so far only non-Pixar film released by Disney that has managed to have realistic computer animation. Not only is it realistic, but it manages to look completely stunning. The film does retain a cartoonish quality to the look, mostly with how large the eyes are for many of the characters, but there’s a distinct feeling some things wouldn’t have looked as good in previous Disney films as they do in “Tangled.” In a traditionally animated film, Pascal blending in or changing color would have never elicited a response of a chuckle while it does in this movie. It manages to go beyond a character trait and become a cute thing to look for in the movie. I also think every minute of seeing Rapunzel’s hair has some of the best hair animation I’ve seen in any animated film.

“Tangled” also manages to use anachronistic humor to a charming degree, particularly in the number “I’ve Got a Dream.” In most animated movies, including “Brave,” these jokes come off as a joke to appeal to the kids. In “I’ve Got a Dream” we have a thug with a hook who sings about wanting to be known for his showtune medley, which comes off as a sweet thing in a toe-tapping number rather than a joke to keep kids awake during the film.

As for the score, by Glenn Slater and Alan Menken, it’s not among the best scores for a Disney film. Menken’s music is very memorable, but some of Slater’s lyrics are a bit lacking. I even find the big love duet in the film, “I See the Light,” to be a bit boring. There are great songs in the film, including “Mother Knows Best” and “I’ve Got a Dream.”

The puzzling aspect of the film is Mother Gothel, who manages to simultaneously be a great villain and a bit of a weaker villain. She is a great villain because of how she manipulates Rapunzel and others for maintaining her vanity and she’s clearly driven to obtain what she wants. At the same time, Mother Gothel feels like a less-menacing version of Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Both take a baby and raise it as their own, hiding it away from the world and telling the person the world outside is cruel and won’t understand them. But Mother Gothel doesn’t take Rapunzel to extract revenge on the king and queen, she only does everything she does because she is an incredibly vain person. Perhaps Mother Gothel shows us what happens when vanity is taken to an extreme as it ultimately results in her downfall.

But is Rapunzel a Good Role Model for Children? Yes.

Rapunzel is the most bad-ass princess in a Disney movie. Although Mother Gothel would like for Rapunzel to think she’s a helpless maiden in a tower, Rapunzel shows on multiple occasions she can fend for herself. Thanks to Rapunzel’s repeated use of a frying pan as a weapon it ends up being the weapon of choice for the entire kingdom as many characters realize it’s actually a great weapon. Rapunzel is the clear hero of the film as she has the smarts to take on numerous dangers facing her in the film. She is evidence the argument that Disney princesses will lead to girls becoming damsels in distress is very weak. If there’s anything parents should be afraid of children doing after seeing this movie it might be children whacking each other in the face with frying pans.

Although “Tangled” as a film isn’t among Disney’s finest it manages to be a great film to watch while having the best actual princess who is part of the Disney Princess line-up. Although “Brave” the biggest award, “Tangled” is a film that is the most enjoyable and worth multiple viewings.

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The CTA’s Ventra-Sized Problem

Over the past two weeks the Chicago Transit Authority has been dealing with a backlash and revelations regarding their new fare system, Ventra. At first glance, Ventra seems like a great idea since it would cover both CTA and Pace, potentially making the use of the suburban buses more appealing to Chicago residents who want to visit the suburbs. Ventra also allows for use of debit and credit cards to pay for fares.

Tracy Swartz of RedEye revealed single rail rides using Ventra would cost $3. On the CTA’s page for misconceptions about Ventra, they address this with the following sentence:

CTA vending machines currently do not provide change, so those without exact change are already paying $3 for a single ride.

The CTA later says that only the card costs $3, but apparently people already pay $3 for a single ride so it’s no big deal.

Swartz also reported fees which would be tacked on for people who would use a reloadable Ventra card. To get the Ventra card, one must first pay $5, which will be refunded as transit funds after the card is registered. If a user of the Ventra card does not use their card for 18 months, $5 is deducted for every month it is not in use.

The more troubling news about Ventra came from Jon Hilkevitch at the Chicago Tribune. Hilkevitch reported on numerous fees added on if users of the Ventra card also use it as a prepaid debit card, a feature the CTA has been touting on their website.

The clear option CTA users have is to try to reject the debit card option, use a 30-day pass or use their own debit card or credit card to pay for fares. Although a 30-day pass recently went up to $100, it’s still a cheaper option for people who regularly use the CTA for more than commuting to work.

The CTA meanwhile has to roll out a campaign for damage control after the recent articles. For the people who still read the Tribune and RedEye, they’re aware of this and it might make them wary of using Ventra. The potentially bigger problem with this situation is the Ventra system is no longer looking like a great situation. The fare system already had numerous options that were confusing to some users. I was recently talking to a friend and we discussed how confusing Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus can be. This was a system rolled out in the mid-2000s and it’s confusing for people from the Chicago area. Imagine how confusing Ventra will be if the CTA doesn’t properly educate the public about the program.

Time will tell if the CTA and RTA regret using this program–both systems are using the fare system, but I imagine this will affect the CTA more. There’s no turning back, but the CTA has to think fast to not have this turn into an even bigger disaster for them.

I’m mostly annoyed because I just replaced my Chicago Card.

Alternatives: “The Thief and the Cobbler” (Miramax Release)

Title shotThis post, which you are currently reading, is on the Miramax Release of “The Thief and the Cobbler,” which is the one that I imagine most people will leap for since it’s at video stores and streaming on Netflix. Please don’t post comments about how much better the recobbled cut is because I haven’t seen it and I chose to write about the Miramax release for a very specific reason.

“The Thief and the Cobbler” has a very lengthy and sad history. Animator Richard Williams decided to start working on “The Thief and the Cobbler” in 1964, intending to make it his masterpiece. Williams then went on to direct the animation for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and started to work with a studio to release “The Thief and the Cobbler.” He couldn’t complete the film on time and control was taken away from him. In 1995 the film was released by Miramax as “Arabian Knight,” although it was changed back to its original title for the home video release, and the film was derided as a rip-off of “Aladdin.”

In ancient Baghdad, Tack (Matthew Broderick) is apprenticing as a cobbler when he gets messed up with a thief (Jonathan Winters) who has broken into Tack’s home. The two fall onto Zigzag the Grand Vizier (Vincent Price), who accuses Tack of attacking him. To save Tack, Princess Yum-Yum (Jennifer Beals) breaks her shoe and has Tack repair her shoe. Once again, the thief tumbles into Tack, who then tumbles into Zigzag and is thrown in jail. Yum-Yum has Tack released just in time for the three golden orbs to be taken by the thief. According to legend, the golden orbs protect Baghdad and without them, the city is vulnerable to the evil One-Eye (Kevin Dorsey). To take advantage of this, Zigzag travels to One-Eye with his loyal but abused vulture Phido (Eric Bogosian) to work together to take down Baghdad. Meanwhile, Yum-Yum and Tack travel to find One-Eye’s sister to save the city.

Knowing that the version I watched isn’t the one that Williams had planned, it is easy to see where Fred Calvert, who took over the project, added things in to make it a more marketable and mainstream movie. In the initial version, the thief is mute and in this version, he has a lot of thoughts the audience gets to hear. Many of these thoughts are anachronistic jokes and they don’t really fit in the film. But ultimately it isn’t the jokes in the monologues of the thief that grow tiresome, but the fact that he has so many monologues. Hear from the thief gets to be annoying after a certain point.

It’s also clear to the viewers that songs were added to make it more like other children’s movies. Not every children’s movie made by studios other than Disney can have great songs, but “The Thief and the Cobbler” has the least memorable songs in any animated film I’ve watched. Whenever I watch this film, I expect to have a song sung by the brigands in the film stuck in my head the next day. But I finish the film and I can barely remember the tune. I the songs posses a quality which causes the viewer to assume Calvert found Robert Folk, who wrote the songs, and had him half-ass some songs for the film.

These are the two biggest problems with the film. The film is a must watch because of the fantastic design Williams had for this project. It has some of the most fascinating animation I’ve seen in any animated film.

slide!

Magic!

I’d also argue that for being an overtly menacing villain, Zigzag is an excellent villain. He’s voiced by Vincent Price and speaks entirely in rhymes. In a way, Zigzag feels like a very traditional villain, but he has a position that allows him to influence people as well as a great skill at magic. We also see bits of his cruelty throughout the film. He dislikes Tack, abuses Phido and takes advantage of thief to get the gold orbs.

I’d also throw in Princess Yum-Yum as a good role model. She’s is clever and uses that to save Tack from Zigzag early in the film. She’s also very intelligent and a good diplomat as she negotiates in the film with brigands and helps save the city. She cares very much for the future of Baghdad and its safety, but also has a strong relationship with her father. In a way she reminds me a bit of Kida in “Atlantis: The Last Empire,” which came after this movie. This isn’t to accuse “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” of borrowing from this film, but it’s an interesting similarity.

Even with its flaws, “The Thief and the Cobbler” is worth a viewing because of the story and animation. It’s an odd film during this time period as it has an original story, but the story is a fascinating tale that feels like it could have come from an old legend.

The Disney Princess Project and The Films of Pixar: “Brave”

bravePreviously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Frog

As time progressed, Pixar received criticism for not having any films with female lead characters. Pixar had strong female characters, such as Helen Parr/Elastigirl and Violet in “The Incredibles,” Sally in “Cars,” EVE in “WALL-E” and Colette in “Ratatouille,” but none of the lead characters had been women. Pixar decided to fix this by making the lead character of “Brave,” the studio’s thirteenth feature, a woman.

The main premise of “Brave” is that Merida (Kelly Macdonald) does not want to get married. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), is a little more willing to allow her to be her natural tomboyish self, but her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is concerned about the future of the kingdom and has been preparing her daughter for marriage since she was little. The lords of the land arrive to present their sons and Merida isn’t impressed and challenges them to an archery match. Through this, Merida shows she can do archery better than any of the potential suitors, humiliating her family and the lords. She then runs off and meets a witch (Julie Walters), who prepares a spell to change Merida’s fate. Merida feeds the spell-laden treat to her mother, turning her into a bear. They then run off to try to figure out how to reverse the spell while tensions brew because Merida needs a suitor.

The movie would be much better if Merida wasn’t so annoying. Even at the end it’s difficult to care about Merida and her problems since she brings most of the upon herself by being confrontational and not willing to understand her mother. Additionally it isn’t until the end that Merida really realizes that she brought her problems upon herself. For most of the film Merida feels like her problems are the result of her mother wanting for her to get married. I would be a little more sympathetic if this wasn’t set in Scotland during the same period the Vikings existed and a girl who wasn’t even in her teens getting engaged wasn’t common place. After all, we’ve already seen a Disney movie during this blog post series that featured a woman being engaged to a prince at the announcement of her birth.

What’s troubling about the movie is the use of anachronistic humor in the film. Humor that uses anachronisms can work, as seen with “Hercules,” but because of the tone of the film it seems very out of place. The two examples seen in the film both come from the witch when Merida and her mother visit the witch. The witch has left an away message in her cauldron that has options where you dump a vial to get a different message. This is reminiscent of menus anyone gets when calling a customer service number. When Merida dumps the vial for the message left for her, the Witch mentions going to the Wicker Man fest, which is either the Dark Age version of Burning Man or a festival where people yell “Not the bees!” at each other. Why either of those things would be mentioned in a children’s movie is beyond me. Wicker men were also part of Druid rituals, but even for a film studio that is prone to make obscure references in their movies, Druid rituals is pretty obscure. Also, most adults watching this movie would hear “Wicker man” and either think of the British horror film or the Nicholas Cage film. No matter how you slice this, I don’t know why the “Wicker Man festival” comment is made.

Some of the jokes made in the film also tend to be a bit lazy. In the film we get a joke about haggis being gross and one of the lords lifts his kilt to insult the other lords. These jokes feel lazy because they’re jokes that have been seen in every movie and TV show that has ever had Scottish characters.

But this is not the biggest problem with “Brave.” What ultimately makes this film problematic is the pacing. The big event in the film–the transformation of Elinor into a bear–doesn’t happen until halfway through the film. Everything before the film just leads up to that event. If you think about it, that’s 45 minutes of events that lead up the transformation which isn’t the slowest I’ve seen in a movie released by Disney, but that ends up feeling very slow. As a result, the quest to reverse the curse feels a bit rushed.

But since this is a Pixar film we have excellent animation, particularly with the animation for Elinor. We have wonderful hair designs, especially with Merida’s red locks that bounce up and down as she rides on her horse. The Scottish landscape is wonderful to look at, such as whenever the characters are near water. The attention to detail is also very evident, such as the fabric in Elinor’s dress at the end of the film or the hairs on the chin of the witch.

But is Merida a Good Role Model for Children?: No.

I can see where some people would argue that because Merida is tomboyish and rides horses and shoots a bow and arrow that she’s a good role model. That doesn’t excuse her behavior in the film. Her behavior is in many ways similar to that of Ariel. In this situation, rather than being told by her father that she can’t marry a human, she’s told by her mother that she has to marry. This results in the same solution of going to a witch and asking for help. A difference is that all Merida knows is that she’ll change her fate with the spell given to her by the witch while Ariel is well aware of what she’s getting herself into with Ursula.

That said, there is a clear transformation the character undergoes during the film. All of the stronger princesses I have examined or will examine feature this characteristic. I will give the filmmakers credit for this, but for most of the film Merida feels a bit annoying and also not a very compelling character. What’s even worse is that the conflict of not wanting to be in an arranged marriage feels better handled in “Mulan 2,” and I should not be able to say that I think a plot is handled better in a direct-to-DVD Disney sequel.

As both a Pixar film and a princess movie, “Brave” fails to live up to previous standards. But you could do much worse with Pixar films and it never manages to fall to the level of “Cars 2.”

The Disney Princess Project: “The Princess and the Frog”

Come! We pucker.Previously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Little Mermaid

Disney released “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009 and it was notable for featuring the first African-American Disney Princess. There would later be some concerns from Disney because they didn’t attract enough boys to a film with the word “Princess” in the title and it didn’t receive the warm welcome that “Tangled” received a year later. It seems to me that “The Princess and the Frog” is actually an underrated film and deserves a place among the great Disney films.

The film follows Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a young woman in New Orleans who wants to open a restaurant, fulfilling the dream of both her and her dad (Terrence Howard). Tiana is a hard worker and finally earns the money, but fails to secure the restaurant after being outbid. At the same time Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) has arrived in New Orleans, completely broke. He is going to stay with the fabulously wealthy “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman) and his daughter Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), who would love to marry a prince. Naveen ends up tangled up with Dr. Facilier (Keith David, who should really do more animated Disney movies), a voodoo witch doctor who transforms the prince into a frog. Facilier also transforms Naveen’s valet Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) into Naveen, which is part of Facilier’s plan to take over New Orleans.

At the costume ball the La Bouff’s hold, Tiana meets Naveen in frog form and after much cajoling from the prince, she kisses him. This results in Tiana being transformed into a frog and the two are chased off into the Bayou. While there they meet a trumpet-playing alligator named Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and a firefly named Ray (Jim Cummings) who can help them find Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). The two hope that Mama Odie can transform them back into humans, but they get deeper help from Mama Odie.

“The Princess and the Frog” paints a portrait of New Orleans that isn’t completely whitewashed. The viewers are shown the stark contrast between where the La Bouff’s live and where Tiana and her family live. The La Bouff’s live in a grand New Orleans mansion surrounded by other grand New Orleans mansions. Tiana’s family lives in a tiny run-down bungalow surrounded by similar buildings, all of which are occupied by blacks. The film could have portrayed New Orleans as a place where whites and blacks lived in harmony everywhere, but it shows us a socioeconomic and racial difference in where the characters live.

The film also shows us that Tiana faces difficulties because she’s a black woman. After all of her hard work, Tiana finally makes the down-payment for the restaurant but is outbid. She is then told by the realtors that it’s for the best because a woman of her “background” couldn’t possibly handle the pressures of running a restaurant. Although they don’t explicitly tell it to Tiana, the realtors do dismiss her dreams because she’s a black working-class woman. With the other characters who were servants, they didn’t get dismissed for their dreams because of their race or economic background. And while Tiana does get the prince in the end she doesn’t pick the prince because he will help her realize her dreams–although she realizes her dream will be complete if she shares it with him.

What’s also interesting is how the film portrays voodoo, which isn’t treated like a religion. There’s a very clear difference between good voodoo and bad voodoo in the film and they’re represented by Mama Odie and Dr. Facilier, respectively. Mama Odie uses her voodoo to help all living creatures while Dr. Facilier uses his voodoo to manipulate and control people while also serving his masters. This is a situation where the filmmakers could have shown voodoo as only being a tool for evil, but they chose not to do so and the film is better for that.

The film features terrific lively animation for all of the characters and settings. Even in the murky Bayou or the a dark cemetery it is always a delight to look at the film. Two of the best moments come during musical numbers. In “Almost There” we have a fantasy sequence where Tiana imagines her restaurant in an illustration coming to life, which fits in perfectly for the setting of the film. Later in the film there’s the sequence of “Dig a Little Deeper” there are numerous animals dancing and singing like they’re a gospel choir in a church. The sequence ends with multiple colored bottles hanging from Mama Odie’s tree that creates a look that reminds one of stained glass.

Randy Newman also wrote a terrific score for this film that is the finest Disney had in more than a decade. It does a great job of adding to the film’s setting and is incredibly memorable. “Dig a Little Deeper” is also one of the best songs of any of the Disney Princess songs simply because of how exuberant it manages to be.

But the film is not without fault and the weaknesses come in the form of Louis and Ray. Louis is at some moments a little too over-the-top which distracts from the relationship forming between Naveen and Tiana. Ray on the other hand has a weird plot where he’s in love with the evening star, which although amusing seems to do very little for the film.

But is Tiana a Good Role Model for Children? Yes.

Tiana is a hard-worker and an incredibly kind person. She never seems to dread her work, which might be tied to the fact that she views it as a means to achieve her goal. Additionally, Tiana actually has a dream that is a more substantial than “marry a prince” or “attend a ball.”

I also disagree with the idea that Tiana only ends up with Naveen because she wants him to help her make her restaurant a reality. Tiana makes it very clear at the end of the film she wants to be with Naveen because being around him makes her happy, not because he will make her restaurant magically occur.

Even though it has problems, “The Princess and the Frog” is a great movie to watch because it does present a good role model and is an excellent story with great characters and a terrific setting. So grab a bowl of gumbo and enjoy.

The Disney Princess Project: “The Little Mermaid”

Poor unfortunate souls! In pain, in need. This one longing to be thinner, That one wants to get the girl. And do I help them? Yes, indeed. Those poor unfortunate souls So sad, so true. They come flocking to my cauldron, Crying, Spells, Ursula, please! And I help them! Yes I doPreviously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire

“The Little Mermaid” was the first film in a string of hits Disney would release from 1989 until 1999. It was the rain that relieved a drought for Disney after the dismal performances of “The Great Mouse Detective,” “Oliver and Company” and “The Black Cauldron.” So why did “The Little Mermaid” succeed at the box office?

The film focuses on Ariel (Jodi Benson), a mermaid princess who strays away from activities and dreams of being on the surface. This troubles both her father, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), and the court conductor, Sebastian the Crab (Samuel E. Wright). On one evening, Ariel floats to the surface and sees a celebration on a boat. There she spies Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and falls in love with him, eventually saving him when his ship burns. But Ariel cannot be with the prince because humans are different and they’re savages. Then Ursula (Pat Carroll) arrives on the scene and offers Ariel a deal: She can be a human and remain a human if she shares true love’s kiss with Eric before the third sunset after the transformation. If she fails to get true love’s kiss, she will return to her mermaid form and become the property of Ursula. Crazy in love, Ariel takes the deal.

The most obvious reason as to why “The Little Mermaid” was essentially an instant classic is that it’s one of the best movies Disney has ever made. The film features fantastic animation, great voice acting and wonderful songs. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken wrote many of the best Disney songs ever done and quite a few of their best songs are in this film, such as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl.” The film also does something the three films I mentioned earlier did not do, which is tell a love story. Most people love a love story and this film features a girl meets boy story.

The film also features Ursula, who is possibly Disney’s best villain. Ursula schemes and does everything possible to rule the sea. She also camps it up–although young Meghan-Annette thought Ursula was a guy–while being a delightful character to watch. No, she doesn’t burn down an occupied house because she’s lusting after someone nor does she destroy an entire village to send a message to a ruler, but watching her character is a delight and she does go to great lengths to get what she wants. She also has a motivation for why she does her plan. It’s established that Ursula used to be part of the royal court, but was banished for trying to seize the throne. While it’s not clear why she wanted it in the past, her banishment explains why she wants the throne now.

Although all of the songs in the film are great, I do want to focus on “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” We know “Part of Your World,” which is a classic “I Want” song that is found in musical theater. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” shows how Ursula uses Ariel’s desires and manipulates her into becoming a human. Ursula starts off by explaining how she works as a “businesswoman,” but after explaining the deal tells Ariel that she doesn’t need her voice.

The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what’s idle babble for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with idle conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man.

With that speech it’s easy to understand why Ariel would give up an incredibly prized possession, her voice, to get the guy of her dreams.

Before I get to the main point of my posts, I would like to say that after watching this film I’ve noticed that “Someone different than you is a savage” is a recurring theme in Disney films released during the decade known as the Disney renaissance. In this film, it’s humans to merfolk; in “Beauty and the Beast,” it’s the Beast to the villagers; for “Pocahontas,” the natives to the settlers and reverse; in “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” it’s everyone outside of the cathedral to Quasimodo (as per what Frollo says) and gypsies to Frollo. This certainly creates a lot of dramatic tension in the films, but I find it interesting that it’s a theme Disney kept bringing up during this time period.

But is Ariel a Good Role Model for Children? No.

Sure, she’s a rebellious teenager, but Mulan struggles to meet the expectation of her society and is awesome. The problem here is that Ariel falls head-over-heels for a human and even defends him even though she hasn’t really had time to interact with him at length. (I’ll give “Pocahontas” credit for having Pocahontas defend John Smith and the settlers after she’s gotten to know him.) After her father tells her to stay away from the surface, she trades her voice to get human legs. This could be interpreted by people, and has been interpreted to mean that if you really want a man, change your body and he’ll like you.

I will admit that it’s good that Eric falls in love with her even though she can’t talk, which means that even though she is imperfect, he still likes her. (I don’t interpret that as being the result of men not liking girls who talk, as Ursula suggests.) But Ariel, although strong-willed, does make a deal to get the guy she wants. She also gets her friends into dangerous situations.

So in terms of “Is she a good role model,” I have to say no. But at least Ariel has a strong personality, which more than I can say about Cinderella or Aurora. It also helps that Ariel is placed in a really good movie, so if you haven’t seen “The Little Mermaid,” you have to see this movie.