Tag Archives: Spiritual Hollywood Journey

Checking In

BornyesterdayJust wanted to write a post and check in because I haven’t written anything for about a month now.  And it’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, I’ve just been busy with a personal project thats taken up much of my time.  But it’s worth it, and I think it’s going to turn into something really special.

In the meantime, I’ve been going to the movies and watching all sorts of films.  And to tell you the truth…I just haven’t been compelled to write about the movies I’ve seen this summer.  Most of them have been pretty disappointing, and I haven’t found that one film this summer to be extraordinary.  There definitely hasn’t been a LOOPER or a DREDD in the bunch, two late summer flicks that were extraordinary.  My last bastion of hope is with THE WORLDS END, which is due in theaters sometime next week.  I’m hoping Edgar Wright and his crew won’t let me down.  Among the films I’ve seen…there was ELYSIUM, which was blah.  It’s overblown message about class warfare and healthcare really just brings the film down.  I’m all for hard core science fiction, but this movie was just too serious for its own good.  And Jodie Foster…God…this is possibly the worst thing she’s ever done.  So bummed out.

On the classic movie front, I think I may have found a couple of films to go on my all time favorite movie list.  BORN YESTERDAY.  If anything, next to CLUELESS and ROMY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, this may be my all time favorite dumb blonde movie.  Judy Holiday is hilarious as “Billie Dawn”, a young woman living with her wealthy and powerful boyfriend Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) who has congressmen in the palm of his hand.  Then there’s William Holden’s Paul Varrel, a reporter hired by Brock to help make Billie appear smarter to people in public.  However, through the course of her”makeover”, Billie start’s to wisen up to her boyfriend, and she learns that Harry is in fact a corrupt crook.  Crawford is also hilarious and the uncouth Harry, who is loud and brash and completely full of himself.  There’s a great scene as well where Billie and Harry are playing Gin Rummy that seems to pretty much define their relationship.  If anything, the game is one thing that Billie is really good at, as she gets into it with intense focused concentration.

There were a few other classics I really fell in love with, such as WESTWORLD and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE.  I wrote about both of these films over at This Is Infamous, the new website I’ve been writing for.  I have a couple of new article’s up, one about Brad Bird, and why did he leave the animation industry.  And What Happened To Classic Cartoon Villains? which was another article I had posted.  This is Infamous has been a great experience and an enjoyable site to write for.  I’ve had to spend time trying to come up with more articles and stories.  It’s been good practice for me as a writer, which I hope to carry with me as part of my creative arsenal.  Writing is not easy, and neither is making good storytelling.  But it’s a major part of my learning curve.

I’ve been thinking about how much has changed for me over the last year.  For those who don’t know, I have been a mental health patient.  One of the struggles I’ve had to deal with was being on some heavy medication, which all but took away my creative drawing ability. The one thing I found I had left that I could still do was write.  Even though I didn’t always know what I would write about, I kept doing it anyway as a way for me to push forward.  Things have changed for me now, and I am on a much better medication that gives me freedom to be open and creative.  My attitude about life has been different over the last few years as well, and this run I’ve been through feels like going through the fire.  And I’ve survived.

There’s going to be a lot of things happening with me in the next year or so, and some of it I can’t wait to share with you when the time is right.  Life changes are always interesting and never easy at the same time.  It’s like being reborn, in a sense, and you begin to enter a new field where your destiny awaits you.  What is that destiny?  It’s the new life you manifest for yourself.  The life that begins in the imagination and lives in your dreams.  What you put out the universe will bring back to you.  That really is the interesting part.  And somehow inside, even if were not always not consciously aware of it, we know inside the things we want most.  Sometimes the universe surprises us with an opportunity that leads us to where we really want to be.  It’s our choices in life and our openness to accepting new things that helps us shape and evolve ourselves.  For awhile I felt my life was on the verge of complete disaster.  But that changed over time.  We are at the beginning of a new age, and things are sure to get better, but only to those willing and ready to accept them.

In a little over a week, I will be attending Cinecon, Hollywood’s largest classic film festival at the Grahman’s Egyptian Theater.  It’s a great event, and I will be seeing some terrific films and writing about them as I did with my article from last year.  I hope you will be able to come, it’s from August 29th to September 2.  There are some great surprises.  I mentioned before that last years biggest surprise was getting to see a lost John Ford film called UPSTREAM, which premiered for the first time in over 80 years at Cinecon.  And it was a fantastic film too.  I highly recommend anyone to come and check it out.

That’s it for now.  I have some downtime in the next few weeks, which will mean more writing for me, so hopefully you will see more of what I have in store for you.  Take care.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) Dir. Nicholas Meyer

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The Wrath of Khan is considered by many to be the best film out of all of Star Trek. My personal favorite is actually Star Trek: First Contact, and I know that might seem like heresy to Star Trek, but hey, I grew up on TNG. I actually had the experience of seeing that film in a theater, and I was absolutely thrilled by the end of it. I was only an infant when Star Trek 2 first came out, but I imagine I would have gotten the same thrill out of it had I been able to see it then. I never really got around to seeing Star Trek 2 until I was in college. But it surprised me greatly, and I firmly believe it’s the best of the TOS Trek series. It doesn’t have quite the effects budget of the first film, but the even better alternative is that it has a strong, tight and compelling story. It also has a tremendous bigger than life villain, as well as being the most fun of all the Star Trek films.

Is it a perfect film? Almost. There are a few small things that don’t quite gel with me in this movie. One of them is the Kirk, Spock, McCoy dynamic. It is good here, but some of the things I never understood…Why does McCoy go into a rant on Spock debating the Genesis device when it’s pretty clear Spock was speaking in scientific terms as opposed to morality issues regarding the device. It’s true that McCoy likes to read into things, but there’s a lack of motivation behind his words, and the scene falls flat for me. Some of which might be due to editing. The second thing that’s a bit of a let down for me is some of the production design and effects work. Again, it’s good, but you can see more of the budget constraints on this film compared to the first Star Trek, and I find some of the sets in this film to be a little hokey and not terribly well lit. I think mainly of the space station science lab when Kirk’s away team arrives, and we see Khan has killed most of the staff. The lighting of that sequence just doesn’t seem that atmospheric and eerie enough. But those are minor complaints.

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Quite frankly I would watch Wrath of Khan 100x over than the first Star Trek film. The thing that was missing most from the first film was a driving force, which in this film is Kirk who leads the story. This is Kirk’s film, and everyone around him plays their parts as support for his personal journey. There is more emphasis on Character in Star Trek 2, as well as better editing of sequences, which keep the pacing focused, driving the story forward. When I rewatched the film today, there was one aspect I found still got to me, and that was the death of Spock. Originally when The Wrath of Khan originally came out in 1982, pretty much everybody had heard Spock was going to die. So what Nicholas Meyer did in the film was kill everyone off in a fake out death scene in the beginning. This was done not simply to throw people off, but to get the build up out of the way so people would forget about Spock and focus on the story. Admittedly the same thing happened to me rewatching the film, as I forgot that Spock was supposed to die until it actually happened. It just goes to show how incredibly smart and well thought out the story was. For much of the film, Spock is simply there as support for Kirk, so there isn’t too much focus on what happens to him. To this day, it’s still a terrific death scene, and Leonard Nimoy’s performance is one of the best he’s ever done in all of Star Trek. I’ve always liked that while Kirk and Spock are the best of friends, when Spock is near death, he still stands and adjusts his shirt to present himself to his captain…a great touch. Everything comes home for Kirk in that moment, where this time he can’t beat the no-win scenario without someone else taking the sacrifice.

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The adventure is most compelling here, as the emotional center of the film is Kirk facing his aging body and feels something deeper is missing from his life. The challenge here is that Kirk has spent most of his life cheating death, but it’s also the one thing he’s most afraid of, trying to deny it within himself. He struggles with feeling that he now has to accept old age almost considers his life as captain to be over. It’s this human journey that makes this one of the most emotionally engaging Trek adventures. Kirk has that admission once he realizes he can’t beat the no-win scenario, he finally admits that he knows nothing. What I like even more is that the story keeps it simple here by focusing on Kirk, and of the subplots, such as the Reliant finding Khan all tie into Kirk’s journey. Humorously, as well as being true to the story, Kirk keeps managing to get the best of Khan throughout the film. But Kirk always managing to beat him relates to his problem in that it was only easy for him because he knows things about starships that Khan doesn’t. Still that doesn’t stop Khan from being a greater threat, having killed Federation civilians mercilessly, and doing some crippling damage to the Enterprise. Khan also seems to fall in the vein of literary villains, who have memorized books like Moby Dick word for word, but never actually learned anything from the story! To be honest, he’s not my favorite of all the Trek villains, but he is a lot of fun, and Ricardo Montalban does a great job hamming it up. Khan himself is a rich character, and a joy to watch at times. It’s interesting too that Khan and Kirk have a relationship in the film, but never actually meet in person accept when talking to each other through the Enterprise viewscreen.

I also don’t want to go on without mentioning Kristie Alley as Savvik in this film, and she’s just terrific. I really miss that she didn’t come back (for whatever reason) to do Star Trek 3 and 4. Her replacement, Robin Curtis, does a decent job, but Kristie Alley really owned Savvik as a character, who while being a Vulcan, we still sense a slight bit of pride to her actions. She is not completely emotionless. I also can’t think of his name, but I really like Khan’s right hand man, his most trusted comrade who also begs Khan to let go of his need for vengeance and take the Reliant wherever they want to go. Khan fights him at times, but he keeps vigilant admiration and respect for his leader. Khan is even saddened and angry about his death near the end of the film. We sympathize with several other minor characters in this film, including Scotty’s brash young nephew in the engine room. It’s a minor role, but his death garners plenty of sympathy from us.

The Wrath of Khan is a great enjoyable film, and one of the finest in all of Star Trek. While I have some quibbles about the movie, they are seriously minor to how great this movie really is. It’s an engaging, moving, well told story, and one of the best adventure films of all time.

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#StartrekTheWrathOfKhan #Startrek

A Monster In Paris clip

I may have to check this movie out and see if it’s worth recommending. I watched this clip below, and the animation on the angel singer is just extraordinary. Just incredible, beautifully subtle movements. Whoever animated this section is just a master. Now I’m very interested!

Cinecon 49!

49film_couldhappenHey everyone!  Cinecon 49 is coming up soon!  For those who don’t know, Cinecon is a terrific classic film festival held every year at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, and features fantastic prints of some rare Hollywood treasures, some of which are so good and yet currently unavailable on DVD.  This is your one place to see them!  The festival this year is held Labor Day weekend, from August 29th to September 2nd.  Already the site has updated with some of the films they will be showing this year. Check it out here!

How The Iron Giant Changed Me As A Human Being

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This may surprise some people (even those who know me personally), but I have actually known who Brad Bird was for most of my life, long before I even saw The Iron Giant for the first time.  I was first exposed to his name when I was 8 and The Simpsons first came on, for which Brad served as Executive Consultant, and on occasion director for at least two 1st season episodes.  My parents have been taking me to the movies since I was a baby, and because my dad worked in the film business, we always stayed for the end credits.  Even at an early age I started to recognize names that would show up again and again.  Not just big names like Steven Spielberg, but I’d catch on to actors, writers, directors who would frequently show up.  I recognized Brad’s name from The Simpsons simply because I thought Brad Bird was kind of a funny name.  Over time, I started watching The Simpsons, and Brad was responsible for directing the season 1 classic episode, Krusty Gets Busted, where Krusty the Clown is framed for robbing a convenience store, and it was the introduction to the villainous Sideshow Bob.  It’s a funny episode for many reasons, one of them being that once Krusty’s goofiness is behind bars and Sideshow Bob takes over, he turns the show into an overly-intellectual droll literary hour.  But it’s a great episode and it got my attention as a kid.  After awhile I started to discover more of Brad’s work, eventually seeing Family Dog, the animated short film from Spielberg’s Amazing Stories series, and I began to think, “man, this guy’s pretty good.”

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But everything changed for me on August 6th, 1999.  It was the day The Iron Giant was released into theaters.  I was 17 years old at the time.  There was some pretty bland advertising surrounding the film.  As most of us know, the film bombed at the Box Office in part because of Warner’s failure to properly market the film.  But I didn’t have doubts going in, because I had heard Brad Bird was directing it, and from what I knew of the past works he had done, there was a chance the movie was going to be good.  By the time the end credits rolled, the word “good” for this film was an understatement.  Even “great” seemed low on the scale for a film like this.  At the time when I saw this movie, it was the single most life changing film I had ever seen.  It shattered all my expectations of what I thought an animated film should be.  It was a film so beautiful, so powerful in its message, story, and animation, that I never looked at animated films the same way again after this.  Before this film, I had been a Disneyite.  I based much of what I wanted for myself as an animator, like many people, through Disney films.  Pixar had not yet established itself, although Toy Story came out before The Iron Giant and I loved that movie.  But it was in no way the pinnacle life altering film that The Iron Giant would become for me.  Before when I was into Disney movies I had my sights set on becoming an animator and working for Disney as one.  After I saw The Iron Giant, I decided I wanted to become a storyteller,  a director, and a filmmaker.  The thing that attracted me the most to this film were its moments of darkness.  The Giants transformation into a killing machine is frightening and real, and it shook me out of my skin when I saw the sequence played out.  This was a character that had suddenly lost all hope in himself.  This is someone who lost all faith in the world and turned on a murderous spree.  True, in the movie, we never see the Giant actually kill anyone because the consequences would be too great and there would be no turning back for him if he actually ended someones life.  It’s only Hogarth who manages to stop him and bring him back from the abyss.  But what that sequence also showed me was the things you could do in animated films that Disney could not go.  There were people who already knew this if you had watched a lot of Japanese Anime, which tackles far more serious adult subjects for animation.  But this was the first American animated feature I had seen that was a family film, but took on serious adult themes, with serious consequences attached to the characters actions.  The Giant’s nightmarish transformation was unlike anything I had seen in an animated film.  It made me want to tackle darker themes in my own work and my own storytelling.

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My sense of humor has always been on the dark side, as have been the themes I wanted to explore in films.  In a way, it always felt edgy and cool to me because American Animation rarely ever tackled these areas, or at least, they used to until after The Little Mermaid came out, and it’s like it all suddenly stopped because everyone had their eye on animation as a moneymaker, and nobody wanted to do anything that would scare children and families away.  What’s interesting is the Iron Giant helped me unlock my love for films I saw growing up as a kid that were filled with dark themes, such as Pinocchio, The Adventures of Mark Twain, The Secret of Nimh.  Even films like The Brave Little Toaster had plenty of moments with frightening imagery, and it was great because these movies were never afraid to scare kids.  The simple truth is, unlike what most adults want to believe, kids love to be scared.  It’s not about always protecting our children, because as kids…the thing is…what frightens us also intrigues us at the same time.  Scary images are burned into our skull because it forces us to ask ourselves why the images frighten us.  What is it about watching an animated character in serious peril, or being attacked by a giant monster that makes us want to know where that monster inside us comes from.  It frightens us because we know that monster exists in all of us, and we see it exposed when we watch a film that traumatizes our minds.  I was much older when I saw The Iron Giant, but the killing spree frightened me just the same, knowing that myself or anyone that I loved could become a killer, or could be knocked off course from wanting to be the beautiful soul that they are.

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The soul however is the deeper layer to what The Iron Giant is.  I watched a seminar once taught by voice actor, Crispin Freeman, entitled Giant Robots and Superheros, which analyzed the mythological aspects and cultural differences where the Japanese like to write stories about Giant Robots and Americans like stories about Superheroes.  The Iron Giant brings the best of both worlds and takes it a step farther.  Here is the notion of a giant robot having a soul.  A machine having a soul and wanting to be more than it’s limitations.  It’s interesting because at the same time this film came out, there was another film that examined this aspect, called The Matrix.  That was another film combining machines and spirituality, where in that case the machines became self aware and wanted to turn against humanity, and the human, Neo discovers in his avatar form that he can bend the Matrix to his will, and eventually merging with it.  The Iron Giant is more family fare than the darker Matrix films, but at the same time the human element finds its way into The Giant.  Through his own spiritual journey he finds not only mentorship through a 9 year old boy, he also discovers Superman, and discovers in himself that is what he wants to be, an empowered being who uses his abilities for goodness in a harsh world.  The giant instantly relates to Superman because he is also misunderstood by those around him who fear him as a threat.  He is conflicted by his machine body, his ego telling him what he really is, which is an engine for destruction.  But he finds he doesn’t want to be that at all.  He wants to grow beyond everything he was designed for.

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There was a story where during the finale of the film when the Giant sacrifices himself to save the town, somebody in a story meeting for the film asked why didn’t the Giant just take one of his rockets and destroy the missle from a safe distance.  Brad’s point was that the Giant wouldn’t do that because it would mean turning himself into a gun, which is not what he wants to be.  The message, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, becomes the center of the Giants whole purpose of being.  When I heard those words for myself as a teenager, it became the center of my own being as well.  They were powerful words I wanted to live by.  It led me down a hard road later in college, because I found myself drifting from the Disney animation status that I thought I wanted from the beginning.  I discovered that I came into conflict with my own desires as an artist when animation was suddenly not as important to me.  I have always had to struggle with my drawing, I couldn’t keep up with my peers at the time, and overall it made it a struggle for me when I felt I wanted a job vs. what I wanted for myself.  In a funny way, I could take The Iron Giant as an example of someone going through the same thing, as he was a being that was in conflict with what he was built for vs. the being he wanted to become, in a decision made on his own.  He fights and struggles because his body that he was built to be wants to keep him down and conformed, but his “soul”…and his awakening into his own being is the thing that transforms him and makes him the defining hero he always wanted to be.

What I have learned from this film, and what it has taught me has always been about following your guiding light…your intuition and your spirit to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.  This includes deciding how you want to approach your career, what you want to contribute to humanity, deciding the people you want to fall in love with, deciding what you want to take a stand for and what is most important to you.  It’s never about following a particular crowd or a religion because many times a religion forces you to fall back on your own body.  On the one end, its meant to keep you safe and keep you grounded.  But it can also keep you afraid an in the dark from the person you always want to become.  It can also tell you there is no other way except what is meant to keep you in line and in fear of following your path.  They are the voices in your head telling you not to go off into the woods because they are dangerous, they are full of turmoil, and you can damage yourself far greater when you let go of a chosen belief.  The conflict comes when you do go out into the woods, and the voices in your head are constantly telling you to come back, that you are putting yourself in danger and that you cannot survive on your own.  It’s why in The Iron Giant, when the Giant thinks Hogarth is dead and all is lost that he falls back on his “machine” life and turns into a weapon of destruction.  He doesn’t know yet that the choice is always within him, but because he lost Hogarth, there was no one left to make the choices for him accept himself.  And that can be a frightening thing.  When we hear the words, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, it is exactly that.  There is no fear in deciding on the person you want to become.  We can get angry and conflicted when we suddenly find so many voices making the choices for us that we don’t want there anymore, which is what can lead to anger and a need to strike back.

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After I saw The Iron Giant, I wrote Brad two letters.  The first one I wrote to him because I was about to become an Eagle Scout.  I asked him in a letter to send me a congratulatory card with my Eagle Scout packet.  When you reach that level as a boy scout, you can ask for congratulatory letters from The President, Senators, or people you admire.  Brad’s card was the most important one in there, because for me having accomplished becoming an Eagle Scout, his card defined the person I wanted to become.  Brad has always been that symbol in my mind and my hero for all time and I have continued to aspire to be the image of what Brad is to me and the person I want to be.  He’s my “Superman” so to speak.  Later on I wrote Brad a second letter just asking him about being a director and how to become one, and he returned with a 2 page letter reply talking about schools, and what it’s like to be a filmmaker.  He even ended the letter with the simple words, that no matter where you go or where you end up, never forget the sage advice of young Hogarth Hughes, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”.

What is the film that most defines you as a person or as a filmmaker?  I think we all have it in us.  The Iron Giant was that film for me.  It made me want to be more than the sum of what people in everyday life expected from me.  I had to have faith in myself first to find that place for me and decide this is what I want.  The search continues throughout our lives as we go from one thing to another, working to follow our path until we find the direction that most defines the person we want to be.  It’s what we spend our whole lives searching for, choosing to be who we want to be no matter where the world drops us.  It’s up to you to decide what is most important for you and whether your own path is guiding you there.  If it isn’t, it could be time for a self examination to get yourself on track.  If you can do that, however, that you will discover that the universe is putting you in alignment, and the life you always wanted for yourself will have been laid out for you all along.

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Paying Attention To What Your Children Watch

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This is something I’ve struggled to say for awhile, and I’m sure there are plenty of you die hard Disney lovers who will give me hell for saying it.  But I’m going to try and explain in the best way I can why I think The Little Mermaid is a terrible film.  It is.  I have hated this film since I was a little kid.  I have been angry for awhile now how The Walt Disney Company started off back in the day as something so great only to fall apart and take the dark path because of the success of single film.  The Little Mermaid, to me, is the movie that destroyed Disney Animation.  When I was a kid I not only hated the film, I was too emarassed to tell anyone how much the movie upset me.  It was my worry that people would make me out as some kind of self centered egotist for not understanding why a movie that was so successful and loved by so many people, as Ariel would say “…could be bad”?  I am worried about what kids will take away with them when they watch a movie like this. Ariel, in my opinion, is a selfish spoiled brat who doesn’t know who she is.  She then falls for an innocent guy who also doesn’t know who he is.  Ariel doesn’t listen to her father, who tells her to stay away from humans for her own personal safety.  But if Ariel doesn’t listen to anything her father tells her, what makes us think she’s going to listen to Eric when he has something to say?

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I actually think in the movie’s story, Ariel’s father is innocent in this whole mess.  It’s not his fault with what happens to her.  The film tries to blame him as being too stubborn and pig headed, and wants us to believe he should just let his daughter go because she’s “following her dreams” and wants to “be herself”.  But the fact is, Ariel knows nothing about how the world works.  She has absolutely no discipline for herself, and quite frankly her friends aren’t any help either.  Who do we see her hanging around with all the time?  A 12 year old kid ?(Flounder)  Why doesn’t a girl her age have any girlfriends?  She seems like she’d be pretty and popular enough.  If you want to try and make sense of it, imagine of this were a live action movie about a teenager.  Why would she spend all her time with a 12 year old when she’s trying to figure out how to get laid?  It’s like spending all your time with your little brother. So what about Sebastian, then?  He tries to help her more than anyone, to the point of even singing a catchy Oscar winning song about why this thing with Eric is not going to work out and that she should stay Under the Sea.  He’s right.  He’s right the whole time.  She abandons her father who only loves her and wants what’s best for her.  She runs off to the most untrustworthy drug dealer in town (Ursula)  trading her “voice” for ecstasy…I mean legs…that will make her “human” so she can meet and fall in love with Eric.  But then she gets into trouble when she blows the whole thing, dragging first her friends into her problems, then her father, who has to turn over his entire kingdom and get himself turned into a kelp pol-lop so his daughter can be saved, and then finally getting Eric involved to fight and kill a gigantic Ursula for her.  At the end of the film her father forgets everything his daughter just put him through and decides to reward her for being selfish and spoiled by giving her ecstasy (I mean legs) so she can go on and live happily ever after with her new chump husband Eric, who apparently never got the memo that every time he hangs around this girl, the threat of getting himself killed increases.  If you need more convincing, just look at the people she associates with!  Power hungry drug dealer witches?  A clueless father?  An angry crab she never listens too?  A 12 year old boy?  Who is this girl??

I saw this movie the first time when I was 8 years old.  Admittedly at that age you’re not going to understand all the things that are wrong with a movie, except that if it’s entertaining and you’re having a good time that’s all that really matters to you.  Well, it wasn’t enough for a person like me later on when I started watching the films I liked at the time (or thought I liked) and then realizing these movies were not good for me at all!  The Little Mermaid in particular made me crazy and upset because when the end of the film came, I was so terrified and embarrassed of the giant Ursula scaring me that I had to keep it all inside.  I kept it inside out of fear of being ridiculed by my then classmates in 2nd grade who all loved the film, because lets face it, admitting you were terrified from a Disney film at that age isn’t exactly cool.  I had to hide it from my friends, and this terrifying nightmare of a film always stuck with me.  I feared as well the mean-spiritedness from others who would laugh me off to the side if I admitted the film scared me.  I had no idea how to handle a movie like this at all, and nobody to help me during that time.  So I had to figure it all out on my own.

It’s not that I’m mad at these people, its just perpetuated ignorance from all parties involved, including the filmmakers.  I’m certain they had no real intention of frightening or upsetting young kids.  But at the same time it’s the filmmakers themselves who could not see that the story might be going in a bad direction.  This is not a good movie.  It’s not a good movie because it teaches children all the wrong things to expect out of life.  You have to look at the original Anderson tale to understand what the story was really trying to say.  In the actual story of The Little Mermaid, the mermaid dies.  She dies because her own ignorance and self righteousness catches up with her, and it happens when the prince decides he’s not in love with her and runs off to marry somebody else.  She fails, and she’s turned into salt water.  The message of that story is what happens when we gamble our lives, when we are willing to risk giving up our existence over a petty infatuation.  The original story shows us how dangerous that can be.  It’s dangerous to give into our emotional impulses without consulting with someone or ourselves to know if this is the right choice.  The movie flops the message completely saying now that you will get what you want if you gamble your life on something that might not turn out the way you expect.  In the movie Ariel never learns anything from her experience.  Somehow we’re supposed to believe the lesson is that she had to learn to get along with her father.  But her father isn’t on her mind at all during the whole time she’s human.  During the scenes where Ariel is human on land, we cut away at one point where Triton discovers Ariel had run away and he’s afraid and upset, feeling guilt for shouting at her.  We cut back to Ariel, and she’s having the time of her life not giving her father a second thought that she might be worrying him or feeling guilty that she’s upsetting him.  She just wants to snag her prince.  At the end her father has to sacrifice his life and his power and kingdom to save her, and what happens after the witch dies and everything is back to normal?  He lets her go.  Which if you think about it was probably the smartest move on his part, because now the problems of his daughter are dumped on somebody else, and since Triton lives in the ocean and Ariel’s been changed into the human, she won’t be making any visits to daddy anytime soon, at least until somebody invents diving equipment to she can go to the kingdom and visit her father.  So unless he really wants to show up to the surface and change her back into a mermaid, he could do it but why would he want to anyway if he really feels he failed his daugther?  If anything, call it a happy ending for Triton and a sad depressing ending for Eric who now gets to find out on his own what a selfish washout Ariel really is.  Triton at least can now move on with his life, knowing that he at least did something right with his 6 other daughters, who would never selfishly run out on him.  So in that sense, we gotta give Triton credit that he actually probably is a good honest guy (and a good father) just trying to make the best of his situation.  It’s not really that Triton’s a control freak, and it’s not like his rules about merfolk staying in the ocean are part of a dictatorship.  The guy does it to keep his people safe, so nobody else will get hurt.  So of course when Ariel botches things up, and Triton is forced  to turn his power over to Ursula, making her dictator/ ruler of the ocean, fucking over an entire kingdom because of one selfish girl who wanted to get laid by a boy…I think we can start to see now how crazy this movie really is.  And we can start asking ourselves how movies like The Little Mermaid are influencing our children.  How will a movie like this influence your children as teenagers when they get angry and decide to turn against you for their own selfish needs?

Yet, this is the movie that “saved” Disney from falling apart.  It wasn’t because it was a good story.  It wasn’t because the message was so important.  It was because Disney knew exactly all the right buttons to push in its audience.  They knew exactly what they could sell to an audience to make them believe the story was speaking to them in a way that sounded like it was important, when it wasn’t really at all.  This film set up all the tactics used by filmmakers in animation from here on, when it came to manipulating audiences with wonderful songs, silly sidekick characters, and so on….all the elements that trick you into thinking this movie is an important event.  It’s not that way at all.  We allow ourselves to be taken in by it because of our backgrounds, because of our belief systems, because of everything we were told by our parents or what other people tell you you’re supposed to like about movies, animation, TV, film, etc. and never actually thinking for yourself that this kind of story might not be good for you or your kids who eat this stuff up on a daily basis.  I don’t think people should be made angry by the fact that the entertainment industry is manipulating your children to seeing the world as if it’s just like the Disney Channel.  But there comes a time when all kids need to learn to grow up, and wake up to their surroundings, their parents, their family, their friends, and even their own children when they have them.  Your kids are made to think that protagonists like Ariel and every other Disney Princess is noble and dignified in their decisions to be free and be the person they want to be.  But sadly, those princess thoughts about what it means to be free comes from a place of arrogance and selfish desire.  It’s all the things that will blind kids from the real truth about themselves and their world.  Many filmmakers making content for children in America are failing at their jobs are storytellers.  Not everything they make is bad, there are still some movies and shows made that are spectacular stories.  But it’s a problem because kids don’t know any better about what their watching.  The filmmakers don’t know any better either about what they’re trying to say because their own belief systems about the world are blinding them when they tell their own stories to other people.

Ever notice now in a lot of children’s programming, it’s becoming more prevalent with adult themes, even if the themes are not appropriate for children or a children’s show?  You can watch something like Adventure Time for instance, which is a a show that, quite frankly, has no idea what it’s audience is supposed to be.  Kids laugh at the goofiness of it, but miss out on all the themes, which are not targeted at them at all and are trying to talk more to adults.  That show would probably be better off as an Adult Swim kind of series.  But you look at the majority of the shows that are doing this, and it’s frustrating.  When I watch animated films, all the messages they want to communicate are adult messages, but they’re so convoluted in making the thing for kids the filmmakers don’t know who or what their aiming at when they think they’re trying to speak to adults and teenagers.  You will notice however that when you look at Japanese Animation, they have a very clear definition as to what’s for adults and children.  You just have to look at the films of Hayao Miyazaki, who has made movies for every age group, speaking DIRECTLY to that age group.  All of his films are wonderful and beautifully told, and the messages of those films are understandable and clear to their audience age group.  What happened in America was when a movie like The Little Mermaid came along, it may have been a whopping box office success, but it made things confusing for everyone about how we should tell stories for animation. When you look at animation that was produced before The Little Mermaid in the 80’s, it may not have been perfect, but those filmmakers at least knew who their audience was.  The Secret of Nimh, The Last Unicorn, Rankin/Bass, Heavy Metal, The Adventures of Mark Twain, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  I even like to give credit to movies like The Black Cauldron, a film that Disney like’s to consider a bad wart on their list of films, but the one thing we can admire about that movie is it it had balls.  It tried to do something different, and it was Disney’s attempt to try and make something more adult.  The same happened with Atlantis and Treasure Planet.  It’s not that any of those films were a bad idea, but what happened is that Disney wasn’t willing to let go of their child audience, and as a result those movies failed because there were too many mixed messages to its audience members.  So if you’re a filmmaker and you are watching these movies, it’s a good idea to ask yourself who the movie is  for, and what is it supposed to be about?  You can tell it’s a problem when you can’t answer those two questions by the end of the movie.  It’s not a bad thing if you cant answer the second question if the movie has a lot of themes running through it.  But if you are watching a film where the message should be obvious, you need t ask yourself again if you were actually receiving the intended message.  In most cases, you may not be.  Yet this is what plagues many animated films made in America.  For many of us as audience members, we may come up with our own personal reasons for why these movies are supposed to be great.  But when we don’t want to face what’s really there,  we make up many reasons in our heads to justify to others why these movies are supposed to be good. But they might not be.

This is just my own personal feeling as to why animation today is bad for our children.  We have an important job as storytellers, and it’s not about raising kids on our own personal bias’ or religious beliefs.  What it is about, being a storyteller, is finding that center place that communicates directly with your audience.  The power of every great story are the things we all carry with us through life.  Every great movie you love that everyone can agree on (a movie like Star Wars for instance) has a message that resonates with everyone inside.  It speaks to us all as people and the true life adventure experiences that every individual faces.  It’s not simply about getting what you want all the time for selfish reasons, it’s about teaching others to get what they want out of life, so that other people can see the amazing person they are inside and inspire those people to find the things they want most in life on their own, and in turn share the same feeling with others.  It’s the worlds most powerful butterfly effect.  Story isn’t just about teaching you how to surviving in this world, it’s about teaching others to find their own path in life, and finding your place in the world as a human being.  And it’s not all happy endings, sometimes we have to show the bad stuff too!  Because showing a bad end teaches children and adults in a safe way not to take that path in life, and what happens when we stop listening to the universe and believe ourselves to be alone in this world.  The truth is, you’re never alone at all, even if you happen to be by yourself at the time.  That’s what great storytelling teaches you and the tremendous power it has to help people find their way.  Pay attention to the stories you watch, especially the ones being told to your children.