Disney and The Celtic Jinx

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Thank you for Inspiring me, Sunshine

I haven’t written on the blog quite as often as I should, although the ideas and theories never stop running through my head. I write them down in my notebook, but they stay there waiting to be freed… in this case waiting for me to have a life outside of work.

A few weeks ago I went to see Brave with a friend of mine (yes, the darkest of sins, I missed a Disney movie premiere) and although the movie was good, as all Disney’s creations are to me (each in their own way), once again The Walt Disney Studios* fell short on (re)creating a Celtic tale. The movie had some harsh reviews, but like most of the reviews we read, they were subjective to the bloated egos of their authors and were completely over the top, Brave is a good movie: technically brilliant, smart sense of humor, wonderful new characters that you know you’ll remember for years to come and the unmistakable seal of Disney’s, that splash of magic that only Disney can weave. Nonetheless, you expect more from the creators of mind-blowing masterpieces like Snow White, Wall-E, Peter Pan, Toy Story, Lion King

Brave was a very small splash of magic compared to what The Walt Disney Studios can do and, believe it or not, this is the 3rd time that Disney attempts to bring to life an Arthurian-like tale and misses the mark. This is a phenomenon that I like to call Disney’s Celtic Jinx.

This started in 1963 with The Sword in The Stone, Disney’s adaptation of T. H. White’s story, that portrayed the life of the young Arthur and his education in the hands of Merlin until he finds Excalibur. The movie totally misses the ambiance and tone of White’s story and although you have some funny episodes and some memorable landscapes and background animation, the action is poorly connected and the character development is shallow, none of them has that magnetic power that Disney’s characters usually exude. The movie was a hit in the box offices, but failed to win the hearts of the “fair audience”, it is one of Disney’s least remembered animated features.
In 1985, Disney released their 2nd jinxed epic remake, The Black Cauldron, oh let me guess… you’ve never heard of it?
This “Tolkienesque” adventure was based on Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain and it was an overly ambitious project for the unstable times The Walt Disney Studios (Walt Disney Productions back then) was now facing. The Black Cauldron was a much too complicated project to be taken on by a new generation of artists who were not yet attuned to Disney’s spirit and to each other’s work. With the legendary “Nine Old Men” leaving, these young artists, although very talented, were still very green and the production of this feature dragged on for years, becoming more confusing by the hour. The movie release was a fiasco, the action and sets were too gloomy and excessively soaked in mythological cliches. The Horned King, one of the visually scariest Disney characters, is two-dimensional and completely out of place, there is nothing in that character that makes you say, “this is Disney’s work”!

And we’ve reached the 3rd jinxed attempt of creating a celtic-like myth. Although Brave is an original script, it still disappoints: the beginning of the plot is very promising and the characters have that incredible liveliness and uniqueness that only Disney characters have (just watch the expression on Fergus’ face), but the story inevitably falls into cliche, stumbles all over the action and crashes into a nonsensical order of events and character interaction. Don’t get me wrong, it has deliciously funny moments and characters, sweet contagious optimism and magic, but it leaves us hungry for more… I guess after the 3rd jinxed attempt we are waiting for the final redemption. The 4th is a charmer, doesn’t the story goes like this?

What will it be Walt Disney Studios? will we have a 4th attempt that will make us forget the Celtic Jinx saga?

*Note to the readerThe Walt Disney Studios encompasses the creation, production, promotion, sales, distribution of live-action and animated motion pictures, home entertainment releases, music and soundtrack recordings, and live stage plays. The Walt Disney Studios business segment includes the following brands: Walt Disney Animation Studios; Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Disneynature; Marvel; Touchstone; Disney Music Group and Disney Theatrical Group.

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The Corruption of Curiosity

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That’s why children never stop consuming information and learning, because they’re not afraid to ask WHY? They’re not afraid to be curious and ask someone about something they don’t understand.

When we grow up, asking questions turns into Tabu: “If I ask a question people will think I’m mentally retarded” or “If I ask about this it will sound like I want to snoop around other people’s lives” or even “If I ask this he/she will think I’m questioning his/her judgment or abilities“. Just admit it, before asking something, these sneaky little doubts run fast through your mind! And that is completely understandable, abhorrent, but understandable…

Since our teenage years,  our education has led us to believe that we are committing some kind of atrocity when we politely address someone to ask him/her a question. Teachers, parents, bosses, colleagues and sometimes friends, most of them get offended if we ask certain questions. Of course, I am assuming (I know I must never assume, but let’s just say for argument sake) that you have enough sensibility and intelligence to understand when questions are just stupid, yes there are stupid questions and don’t even try the “there-are-no-stupid-questions” argument, we all know they’re out there. When I talk about questions, I am talking about honest doubts, pure learning hunger, healthy curiosity and not the petty desire to humiliate or stand out. The sad thing is that most of the times the honest doubt is mistaken for a petty desire of the ego and most prefer to just dismiss it before listening and thinking rationally about it.

Picture this: Mom is screaming at you because, once again, you were playing at old McGee’s abandoned garage. Honestly curious, you ask her why aren’t you allowed to play there and she responds with that mythical “Because I said so“! I am sure this has happened to you before. What I’m not sure is what you did after she counterstriked with that infamous declaration. Where I’m concerned, and since my early years as a stubborn child, I’ve always found this argument completely ridiculous and I’ve always stood up to it even though I knew that punishment would inevitably follow. For some reason, my doubts were always greater than my fears and my curiosity greater than my self preservation or maybe I was just plain stubborn. I have asked questions to teachers that would inevitably put them in the hot spot and in most cases I got punished for that. I had no problem in taking those punishments,  I knew I wasn’t questioning my teachers’ intelligence or abilities, I was simply wondering why were things performed that way, since in my inexperienced head I was having a hard time understanding why! The thing that helped me endure these unfair punishments was knowing that I got my colleagues to think about that too… they too were wondering…

Thankfully I had amazing parents and a spectacular handful of teachers that taught me to question things, to never take things for granted and to WONDER (I guess it isn’t a coincidence that wondering comes from wonder=fascination, amazement) and that somehow reassured me that curiosity and questioning instruments of knowledge and development.

I’m not trying to give you advice or anything of the sort, I am just sharing my disappointment. Curiosity is undervalued and underestimated, people dismiss curiosity just as easily as they dismiss irrelevant information, even worse, people dislike it. After almost 20 years, it still pains me to listen to harsh and instinctive responses to my questions, it still pains me to see that people attack in order to defend themselves from your unwelcome questions, it still pains me to see how people always expect the worst from an innocent question and it still pains me to see how easily people dismiss your “wonderings”… It pains me to realize that arrogance has conquered curiosity.

Curiosity is passion, is willingness to become more that what you are, is humility to learn what you don’t know, is the spark of innovation and evolution.

Einstein on curiosity

I will remain curious, I will always wonder for possibilities and I will always use common sense, respect and sensibility, but I will never stop questioning for the sake of arrogance and hypocrisy.