Best of the Best

The obvious flip side of last week’s blog is an examination of the best that Disney animation has to offer.  As difficult as it was to find consensus last week on the worst of the Disney catalog there is even more discrepancy to find the best.   Objectively, there is no question that animation techniques have improved  dramatically, which leads to a natural bias towards newer films.  But there are many other biases at play.  Some reviewers obviously prefer musicals, others dislike CGI.  There are also more than a few who are convinced that the movies of their childhood are objectively the best.  This last one, at least, I am free from.  The animated features of the 1970’s were lackluster at best. I don’t think there is a single one of the four films that were released when I was a child that I would go to bat for as a contender for best Disney film ever. So I consider myself at least a little bit objective.

Just a quick reminder from last week, for my purposes, I have limited the list to feature films, created by Disney Animation studios, and released in theaters. Including other studios in the list again skews the results dramatically.  For example on Rotten tomatoes, 6 of the 10 top rated Disney movies are Pixar films.  I have also stopped the list at four films instead of five.  While there is general agreement in these four, rankings very quickly diverge.  So without further ado, here are Disney Animation’s best movies.

#1   Pinocchio

pinocchio

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 100% — Audience 75%

It is interesting to me that this is listed on almost every list at or near the top.  “Pinocchio” was never one of my favorites.  The Princess watched it once, cried so hard she missed the end, and then refused to watch it again.  However, my personal experience aside, more than one critic has called it ‘perfect’.  It is held up as an example of strong storytelling tied to beautifully crafted animation.  While it does feel a little heavy handed to contemporary audiences as well as a little dark for young children (The Princess isn’t the only weeper), it is a powerful film that has held up for almost 80 years.

#2    Fantasia

fantasia

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 96% — Audience 83%

Interestingly, the second film on the list was released in the same year as “Pinocchio”.  1940 was a good year for Disney Animation.  “Fantasia” was a unique project that featured, rather than one coherent whole, a compilation of different animation styles, stories, and musical soundtracks.  It was an experimental piece designed to be taken apart and put back together with new and different pieces periodically.  It was so beloved that it never happened.  In fact, the image of Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” became a Disney icon.  Instead of taking it apart, eventually animators created an entirely different project to continue the work Walt Disney initially envisioned.  It is still considered innovative and beautiful today.

# 3   Lion King

lion king

 

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 93% — Audience 93%

The next two often fight it out for the top spot.  They have a lot in common.  Both are considered part of the Disney Renaissance of the 90’s, both have successful stage productions, and soon both with have live action remakes.  “The Lion King” barely sneaks into the higher spot often because of the story itself.  “The Lion King” rather than relying on fairy tale tropes feels much more Shakespearean in nature.  The drama level is higher and the African Savannah makes a much grander backdrop for regicide and revenge.  All of this underscored with a soundtrack that takes many influences from traditional African influences.  It was unique in animated films at the time and continues to resonate with audiences.  As the film has been adapted to the stage and now to a live action film, Disney has increased the African influences in the music, costuming, and characters which has only made the piece that much stronger.

#4   Beauty and the Beast

beauty and the beast

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 94% — Audience 92%

Finally, there is “Beauty and the Beast”.  This is the last film entirely scored by Howard Ashman before his death and the film is dedicated to his memory.  In my opinion it is the music, rather than the plot that drives this film consistently to the top of the ‘Best of’ lists.  The fairy tale is fairly predictable and straightforward.  It is the music that connects us.  It makes us love the household staff, feel sorry for the Beast, root for the heroine, and even enjoy the villain.  More than the very singable numbers performed by the cast, the background music sets a scene that is at once both sad and hopeful.  The four opening notes of the main theme will pull me into the world of Belle and the Beast immediately.  In fact, that was all it took to let me know what was coming when I saw the live action previews.  I could have literally seen a black screen and those four notes and I would have needed nothing else.  Add to that stunning animation that resembles Italian Renaissance painting and it is no wonder that this film remains a classic.

Honorable Mention: Frozen

frozen

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 90% — Audience 85%

Do NOT yell at me about this one.  I know that “Frozen” is not one of the best Disney movies ever made.  It is very good, but doesn’t even break most top 10 lists.  I include it here for another reason.  This is the film that shifted our culture’s concept of what an animated feature could be.  It featured two strong, but imperfect women who drove the action and pulled the men along in their wake.  It was created and conceived by women.  It broke records. It won awards.  It made an absurd amount of money and continues to be a force in our popular culture five years later.  All of this from a ‘Princess’ movie aimed at little girls.  This movie raised the bar for the genre and is the standard by which other movies will be judged.  And I will fight you on this one.

 

So there is my list.  What do you think?  Have I missed the best Disney movie ever?  Let me know in the comments.

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Worst of the Worst

If you want to have a long conversation with a Disney fan, tell them what you think the worst Disney animated feature is.  Responses will range from heated defense of the chosen movie to reasons why another film is so much worse to “but, really, is there a BAD Disney movie?”  The answer to this last question is an unequivocal  “Yes”.

Interestingly, there is some discrepancy about which movies belong on this list.  The three lowest rated “Disney” movies on Rotten Tomatoes were not actually produced by Disney Animation Studios.  They were either produced by affiliated studios or simply distributed by Disney.  For me purposes, I have limited the list to feature  films, created by Disney Animation studios, and released in theaters.  If I included everything, the list would be full of direct to video releases and “Planes”.  (Don’t get me started on “Planes”)

I have also noticed that there is a huge discrepancy between what the fans beleive are the worst movies and what the critics beleive are the worst movies.  With only a couple of exceptions the critic scores are significantly lower than the fan scores.  I have tried to find a balance between these two things.  Interestingly this list contains films I’ve never seen which, in itself, says something.

What follows is a list, in no particular order, of the worst Disney animated feature films.

#1     Chicken Little

chicken little

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 37% — Audience 47%

This film tops both the critics’ and fans’ list of the worst Disney movie making it the only movie on this list that is agreed on  The general consensus is that the plot is boring and predictable and the characters are one dimensional.    It is somewhat entertaining to read reviews of the animation.  For many people the ‘new’ CGI technology is the only redeeming factor of the film.  For others, this ‘flash in the pan’, new ‘gimmick’ is a fad that Disney is mistakenly jumping on board to great detriment to the writing.  Oops.  I’m sure Disney is deeply reflecting on that as they count their millions of dollars from “Frozen”.

While this is overwhelmingly considered to be the worst Disney movie, I don[‘t remember being that unimpressed with it.  It was formulaic, but not as glaringly as another movie on this list (see #2).  I actually thought is was clever to turn the Chicken Little fable into a story of alien invasion.  This wouldn’t top my personal list of worst Disney movies, but I am completely out voted.

# 2     Atlantis: The Lost Empire

atlantis

Rotten Tomatoes Score:  Critics 49% — Audience 52%

I have listed this one second, not because its actual scores are the lowest, but because of all the films on the list this one is the one that the critics and fans agree on the most.  Everyone agrees that “Atlantis” is a mediocre offering from Disney.  I understand that completely.  All the supporting characters are uninteresting.  They are more caricatures than actual characters in their own right.  Their actions are predictable as in the plot.  There is nothing engaging in this film.  In fact, I didn’t even bother to finish watching it.  I already knew how it was going to end, so I saw no reason to waste time watching it play out.

#3     Home on the Range

home on the range

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 54% — Audience 28%

Blah.  There are two movies on this list that have a 26 point discrepancy between what the fans think and what the critic think.  This First review discrepancy film has lower overall scores than its compatriot which is why it’s higher up on the list.  Critics liked “Home on the Range” more than audiences, but didn’t really ‘like’ it.  The best reviews I could find for this film basically all said some version of ‘it’s fine for kids.’  (The fact that critics believe that kids deserve/enjoy substandard movies is a whole other blog post so I will not get into that today.)  Audiences were much more honest in pointing out that the story was simplistic, forgettable, and ill conceived.  I remember thinking that this was a movie created as a vehicle for Roseanne Barr.  As I have never been I fan, I was unimpressed.  The plot was improbable even by my standards and I’m fully on board with talking cars and wild life with housekeeping skills.  It definitely belongs on this list.  If you can remember it even exists in the first place.

#4     Brother Bear

brother bear

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 38% — Audience 64%

This second review score discrepancy movie,  swings toward the fans.  Its scores are 10 points higher than the last film on the list.  Fans enjoyed “Brother Bear” and the critics hated it.  Critics use such terms as “lackluster”, “uninspired” and “banal”.  Fans almost universally see beyond the movie’s obvious flaws to the potential underneath.  Several fan reviews mention that with a few changes that this one could have been a Disney Classic rather than just another movie.  Personally, I fall firmly in this second category.  Any movie that can make me cry any time I watch it has some depth and quality that perhaps critics cannot appreciate.  It makes most fan lists of worst Disney movies, but rarely is is all the way at the bottom.

#5 Dinosaur

dinosaur

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 65% — Audience 47%

This is the one movie on this list I’ve never seen so I have to rely on what others have said.  Though after having read the plot synopsis, I now understand the “Dinosaur” ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, so there’s that.  Again we have a movie that critics enjoyed much more than the audience.  That being said it seems like most of the positive reviews say very little about the substance of the movie.  The reviews both critic and audience praise the fantastic CGI animation and say very little else.  If this was the one thing that “Dinosaur” had going for it, I can see why it has slowly fallen to the bottom of lists as not just CGI, but excellent CGI became the standard for animation.

(Dis) Honorable mention: The Black Cauldron

black cauldron

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critic 57% — Audience 48%

This is a movie that even Disney doesn’t seem sure what to do with.  Audiences hated this movie when it came out and still dislike it more than the critics today.  It was dark and scary and kids were freaked out after seeing it.  It was the first Disney film to get a PG rating.  That was a much bigger deal than it is now.  Now any animated feature that isn’t accessible to the preschool crowd gets a PG rating.  Back then, not so much.  PG-13 was still relatively new and not used much yet.  Other PG movies released the same year included the less than family friendly “Out of Africa”, “Rocky IV”, “Clue”, and “A View to a Kill”.  Not really the company Disney films usually keep.  The movie is dark, violent, and not very engaging.  The animation is lovely and harks back to the original classics, but it definitely would have given me nightmares as a kids and my mom would have been mad, too.  It doesn’t make all the lists, but it does get mentioned in this discussion a lot.

 

So there you have it.  The five worst Disney movies according to me.  What do you think?  Is there something misplaced?  Is there something missing?  Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

Too Much of a Good (or bad) Thing

A couple of years ago I went through the all the Pixar films in order, discussed them, and rated them.  I even had survey sites where you, my readers, could contribute your own rankings.  I briefly thought about doing the same thing for the Disney animated catalog until I realized that there were 56 of them.  56!  With two more on the horizon and that doesn’t even include the Pixar films.  At one per week that would take me more than a year.  I am not one to back down from a challenge but that seems a little intimidating to me.  There is also the added problem of locating and watching all these films.  Not all of them are easily available even in this day and age.  So I have come up with a plan.

First, I am going to try to start adding to my film collection again.  I have bought less animation since The Princess aged out of the G-rated age bracket.  I keep up with the new films, but have not been going back and purchasing the older films.  For example, I do not own “Lilo & Stitch” even though I love it.  Such oversights should be rectified.  I will be watching for special additions and sales as I am out and about.  I can reasonably talk about a film once I have seen it.

Second, I will start reviewing and reflecting on these films and simply not publishing my thoughts.  I will use the joy of the save button to keep these musings for a later time.  At some point, I will figure out a format to  deal with almost 60 reviews and reflections.  Possibly grouping by decade, theme, or style.  I don’t know yet.  This is obviously a work in progress.

Finally, in the short term, I will be looking at the films that are considered to be the best and the worst Disney animation has to offer.  I have already found that there is little agreement about the specifics of these lists, but there is a general consensus about the very top and the very bottom.  It is interesting to read other peoples thoughts about why these movies are where they are.  I am also strangely looking forward to the inevitable “Why is my favorite movie not here?” comments.  If I get enough of those, I’ll do a fan favorite post and allow y’all to defend your beloved films.

A quick reminder, this will be Walt Disney Animation Studio theatrical release features only.  No live action, no direct to video, no Pixar, no TV shows.  You may think that “High School Musical 2” was the best Disney film ever produced or “Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time” is an overlooked classic.  I will not argue with you.  Not because you are right (you’re really not, by the way), but because those two films and others like them are outside the scope of my work.  This time anyway.

Think your favorite movie will make the cut?  Let me know in the comments.

Girl Worth Fighting For (& with)

Last month a group of ‘true’ Star Wars fans published a list of demands meant for the Disney Company.  They included a bunch of things about the original characters m=not being treated with respect, not being themselves honored as fans, and Disney exploiting the franchise for their own financial gain.  Most of the complaints however revolved around one key issue.  Disney has let women into the Star Wars universe at every level.  We are lead characters.  We are secondary characters.  We are Generals, pilots, Jedi, and droids.  Beyond the camera we are producers and even worse, one of us is the Disney executive who holds authority over the entire franchise.  Such injustice apparently must be addressed.  And is being addressed by men bravely complaining about, harassing, and threatening women online.  What’s more they are going even further by including the occasional man in their anger.  Yoda would be so proud.

As a woman who has had a deep and abiding love of the franchise for literally decades let me respond with a very unDisney, and very NOT pastor-like, “Bite me.

I saw the first (now the fourth) Star Wars movie in the theater with my grandad when it was called simply, “Star Wars”.  I was six and I loved it on every level.  I saw it in the theater multiple times with my grandad and my mom.  We saw it again when it was re-released a few years later.  I saw it an unprecedented (and never repeated) nine times in the movie theater.  I had Star Wars toys, puzzles, games, and posters.  I had the story  album of the movie, comic books, and a sheet set.  I played Star Wars with my friends with and without our action figures.  I was always Princess Leia.  Firstly, because I loved her and thought she was amazing.  Secondly, because she was the only female character.  In fact, if we had another girl join our play group we would make up a character for her to play.  We came up with several over the years, Disney can feel free to contact me for their backstories.

When the prequels came out, I was well beyond the make-believe stage of life.  I did notice however, that a whole new generation of girls would have the exact same problem that we did.  There was only one woman of note.  Again, she was strong and interesting though not as interesting as her daughter.  Padme & Anakin’s relationship never made sense on the screen.  As an added bonus Padme had a lot less agency in the story and was basically a plot device by the third movie.

With the release of “The Force Awakens”, the fan backlash began when the central character was a woman (gasp).  The backlash continued when the same was true for “Rogue One”.  However, they both had the exact same problem as the first six movies.  There was one major female character flying around the galaxy with a bunch of men.  The problem apparently was that the creators dared to have a single woman whose purpose wasn’t to wear a gold bikini, be rescued, or have the protagonist’s kids.  How dare they give even one woman a real plot line and central position in the story.  “Solo” barely managed to bypass this by making the droid female.

When “The Last Jedi” was released, the toxic masculinity could no longer be contained.  One of the charges laid against the new movies was that they pushed an ‘agenda of masculine inferiority’.  If they truly believe that a reduction of the number of characters of a specific gender reflects a disdain for that gender, I invite them to look at the last century of sci-fi film making.  If they truly believe that reducing a single gender to clueless characters who can’t follow simply orders, goofy sidekicks, and self-sacrificial martyrs, I would again invite them to study the catalog of our beloved genre.  If they truly believe that these things diminish a gender, then they should be rejoicing that women are finally being treated equally.  They should be glad that woman are no longer reduced to sexual objects and incidental characters but can drive plots as well as spaceships.  Sadly, we know that isn’t true.

What these fans want is their own personal playground.  They want a place where women do nothing but admire the men and have sex with them.  They want a universe where they are in  charge.  The stories are about them and for them.  They want movies where they do not have to question who they are in the world.  They do not want to share their toys.  You know what?  Too bad.

They world has moved on since 1977 and I am no longer six years old.  I am an adult and I want more than one interesting character.  I want more than the same stories told over and over again because we are comfortable with them.  Did I love “The Last Jedi”? Nope.  I thought it suffered from poor editing and a lack of focus.  Did my heart break when Luke Skywalker died?  Yup.  Not because I thought it was a poor ending for him.  I thought it was a solid ending for the once optimistic character.  It was good for the character who went from being the new hope of the rebellion to a bitter, hopeless old man to regain his hope at the very end.  The “Last Jedi” was not an upbeat, positive movie, but if we remember our history, the middle movie of the trilogy never is.  It did explode all that had gone before, but that is what is need for something new to take its place.  Difficult and painful as that may be.

So bring on the women.  One must assume that even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away at least half of the population is female.  Let’s get over outdated fragile masculinity and catch up.

May the Force be with you!

 

Welcome to the Pride Lands

This month is National Pride Month.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it is a month set aside like others have been to make an effort to recognize the work and contributions of an underrepresented group.  The history that many of us have learned is full of white, heterosexual  men who apparently did absolutely anything that ever mattered.  There has been a push to rectify this perception and bring other facets of our history into the forefront.  Pride Month focuses on the lives of LGBTQIA+ people whose stories need to be told.  It joins the ranks of African American History Month, National Women’s History Month, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and National Hispanic Heritage Month.  And just like all those other months, members of the majority culture are whining.  This complaint is nothing new to marginalized communities, but it seems the push back against the LGBTQIA+ community is particularly strident and Disney is no stranger to that vitriol.

Cast back your mind a little over 20 years ago.  The big news of June was that the Southern Baptist Convention (following the lead of the American Family Association and Focus on the Family), the legislative group of the largest Protestant denomination in the US announced a boycott of all things Disney.  Movies, parks, merchandise, television (including ABC) — it was all off limits to good Southern Baptists.  Why you may ask?  There was concern that Disney was releasing inappropriate films, like ‘Pulp Fiction’ under their newer subsidiary companies.  I can almost understand this except that these films weren’t marketed as Disney films or as family friendly.  In fact until I started researching the history of the boycott I didn’t know two things: First, ‘Pulp Fiction’ was under the Disney umbrella and second, there was an actual complaint about content of programming.  The main focus of the complaint was about the Disney Corporation’s treatment of homosexuals.

I would love to be able to say that Disney was boycotted by a church because the church objected to unfair treatment of its employees who were LGBTQIA+, that the church objected because people were being excluded from parks based on their sexuality, that the church wanted Disney to be more truthful in its storytelling by including characters who were not straight.  Sadly, the church objected for all the opposite reasons.  The SBC demanded that Disney stop providing benefits for same gendered partners, stop allowing “Gay Days” to take place in their parks, and to pull ‘Ellen’ from their line up.  They were deeply offended by these exceedingly small nods to inclusion and called for a boycott until Disney changed its ways.  They were very vocal and pretty much everyone at the time knew what happened.  It was a big deal.  Until it wasn’t.

Eight years later with much less volume, the boycott was ended.  Why, you ask?  Did Disney change its ways?  Did they end “Gay Days”?  Did they withdraw benefits from their employees?  Did they cancel “Ellen”?  Well, yes to the last one but I’m fairly certain that had to do with poor ratings.  As to the rest, no, not at all.  “Gay Days” not only continues, but is listed as an official event on the WDW web site.  The Walt Disney Company is consistently listed as one of the best companies for LGBTQIA+ people to work for.  When same sex marriage was made legal, they lit up the castle with rainbow lights to celebrate.  They did not in any way accede to the boycott demands. So why then did the SBC end their boycott?  If you read their press, they state that it was always intended to be a limited time boycott and it reached its end.  If you read other people’s take on it, the answer is much simpler.  They lost.  They wielded the full power of their membership and made no difference at all.  Instead of continuing in a pointless endeavor they moved on.

I suppose as a ‘good Christian’ this should bother me, but I’m afraid it doesn’t.  I find that I do not find joy in a church that seeks to make groups of people less then themselves. I do not support a church that makes rules based on exclusion (at best) or hate (at worst).  So I rooted to Disney in all this and was glad that they held firm to their values.

As my denomination continues to walk down this path with inclusion on one side and exclusion on the other, I hope that I might have that courage to hold firm to what I believe in spite of threats, schism, and hate.  I hope that my LGBTQIA+ sisters and brothers might have reason to be as proud of me as I am of them for standing up for full inclusion.  Finally I hope that I will fully trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for us to love the outsider, reach out to those who are belittled, and welcome those who have been excluded.

 

Baby Mine

I had what is politely termed a “non-traditional” upbringing.  What that means in real terms is that my family didn’t look like anyone else’s.  I grew up in a time when families looked different than they do now.  Mom (who often stayed home), Dad (who went to work), and multiple siblings.  That was the norm that I was surrounded by but did not have myself.  My parents were divorced.  I didn’t meet my dad until I was eleven.  I was an only child.  And for the space of about three years I lived with my grandparents.  I tell you this just as some background.  I was never overly distressed by being different.  I was at every point in my childhood deeply loved and well aware of that love.  I tell you this so you have a little background when I tell you about my first bout with depression and what would now be considered a minor mental breakdown.

My mother worked nights and was at work when I got home from school.  She didn’t finish her shift until midnight and would get home until one am.  She needed her job, but couldn’t, obviously, leave a four year old home by herself until the wee small hours.  So, I moved in with my grandparents until she could be reassigned to the the day shift.  During the school years, she would come get me first thing on Saturday morning and bring me back on Sunday night. When school was out for summer she would come get me as soon as she got up and then drop me back at my granpdarents’ house on the way to work.  The plan for this solution to be temporary.  It took longer than she expected.

I had been living with my grandparents for two & a half years when things got bad.  I would weep uncontrollably.  Nothing would help, not my favorite foods, television shows, or toys.  I wanted my mother and all I wanted was my mother.  I would cry myself to sleep at night.  I didn’t want to play with my friends because they had what I didn’t.  My grandparents adored me and showered my with love, but it didn’t matter.  I wanted my mother.  They took me to the family doctor to find out what was wrong with me.  Bless him, he told them quite simply that I had told them what was wrong with me.  I needed my mother and if they family wanted to find a way to make me better they needed to find a way to meet that need.  That’s when Wednesday night dinners started.

My mother took an long break on Wednesdays for dinner and we would meet her at a restaurant close to her job.  I got to see my mom for at least a little while during the week and it helped.  I only had to go two full days at a time without seeing her and I got better.  They got to know us well at that little place.  We were regulars for a long time at that little hole in the wall Italian place which is probably why Italian food is comfort food to me even today.

The summer before I entered third grade my mom was offered a choice.  She could take an even worse shift or be laid off.  She chose to be laid off and moved me back home.  The story has a happy ending because she was rehired working days and I stayed home from then until I moved to college.  There were some other adventures but they are not relevant here.  I was home.

Why am I telling you all this today?  That should be obvious.  Over 2300 children have been taken from their parents on our border.  Not for their own well being but as a punishment.  They are not being left with loving family members as I was, they are being incarcerated in ‘long term shelters’.  They don’t get to see their parents every few days or even every weekend, they have no idea when or if they will ever see their families again.  I can only think that if I, loved and supported as I was, could fall into depression what more damage are we doing to these children?  And will they ever recover?

There are a couple of Disney movies that I don’t watch.  Ever.  Dumbo is one of them.  The scene with Dumbo being ripped away from his mother followed by her attempt to comfort him in spite of their separation just presses all my buttons.  In spite of that, the song “Baby Mine” has been stuck on a loop in my head for days.

“Baby mine, don’t you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part
Baby of mine”

These children are mine.  They are yours.  They belong to all of us and they are weeping.  They need us to be strong.  They need us to try to mitigate the damage that is being done to them.  They need us to help them get back to their parents.  It is the right thing to do.  Not sure in spite of all evidence that calls us to fix this?  Here’s what Jesus has to say.  It is not ambiguous,

Mark 9: 36-37

Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 18:15-17
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Matthew 18:10
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

What is being done in our name is wrong and it’s time for it to end.

Advice by Disney (interpretation by me)

It is the time of year where graduates are matriculating across our nation and are being given advice for the rest of their lives.  Speakers ranging from teachers to business leaders to entertainers to politicians are giving young people inspiring (and less than inspiring) talks about the meaning of life. Since, once again, no one has bothered to invite me to speak (which I am sure is simply an oversight), I am offering my advice to you here.  Enjoy!

It is no great secret that I am partial to the works of Walt Disney and the company that he formed. He has become a cultural icon, not only in the US, but around the world.  He created an enduring legacy of joy and entertainment that has survived him by almost 50 years and shows no sign of slowing any time soon.  His character, Mickey Mouse, was created 90 years ago and is considered one of the world’s most recognizable characters.  He won 21 Academy Awards in his lifetime, won one after his death, and the company he created continues to collect them on almost a yearly basis. Not bad for a guy from a small town in Missouri.

How did Disney achieve his success?  Many attribute it to his attitude.  This is a man whose first animation company went bankrupt.  A man whose second animation company lost its signature character and all but one of its employees to another studio.  A man who didn’t even name his most popular character himself (his wife, Lillian, named Mickey Mouse).  With this much failure behind him, it would have been understandable if he had given up.  And yet, he did not.  Instead he laid the foundations of what could be the most enduring entertainment empires of modern times.

What advice did he have for people who asked him about his success?  Here are a few quotes that speak to how he got where he did.

 

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

hook hand thug

Walt Disney loved animation.  He believed it to be a revolutionary medium for entertainment and storytelling.  He had a vision to transform not only how animation was executed, but how it was viewed in popular culture.

Find your dream.  Envision it clearly.  Let it inspire you.  Without first dreaming of what could be you will be stuck in what already is.

“All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

ralph hero

It is a fact of life that you will sometimes fail.  It is unavoidable.  It is also a fact that if you do not try you will not fail.  However you will also not succeed.  Pursuing dreams is a big, scary, and dangerous thing to do.  You risk a lot when you choose to follow your dream.  It takes courage to face the possibility of failure and to keep going even after multiple setbacks.  Remember, Disney lost not one, but two companies before founding the one we know today.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

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No matter how inspired and well crafted your dreams may be, they do you no good unless you actually start working on the them.  You do not have to do everything at once to be a success.  Start small.  Take steps.  Go in stages.  The most important thing is to start.  Nothing is ever achieved by talking about it.  Whatever you dream of doing, you will never achieve it if you don’t start trying.  Put pen to paper.  Write.  Find an entry level job. Get training and education. Start walking or running.  Whatever your goal might be from writing the next great novel to becoming a corporate billionaire to finishing a triathlon you have to start somewhere.  It doesn’t matter where you start.  Just start.

“You can design, and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world.  But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

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You don’t have to do it alone.  There will be other people who have the same passion that you do.  They will help you, support you, and be with you on your journey.  Their dream may not be the same as yours, but you can still work together to make all of your dreams a reality.  It takes a shocking number of people to make an animated feature with today’s technologies, but even in so called ‘simpler’ times when Disney started his work, he was never on his own.  His brother, Roy; Ub Iwerks; and his wife, Lillian all helped him create what we now today.  It isn’t weakness to need help.  It is wisdom.  Working with the strengths and talents of others will only help you in the long run.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Dumbo

It is extremely satisfying to succeed where people have told you you will fail.  In part, because we like to be right and prove all our naysayers wrong.  It is gratifying to know that you were on the right path all along no matter what anyone else said to the contrary.  The more lasting satisfaction, however, comes from the fact that when you do something that people have called impossible, you effectively change the world.  When the impossible becomes possible nothing is ever the same again.  There is a new reality, new rules, and (of course) new challenges that go with the new world you have created.  Doing the impossible creates new opportunities for what is possible and new goals that you can strive for.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity leads us down new paths.” 

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Never rest on what you’ve already done.  Whether you have succeeded in achieving all your goals or have failed in spectacular fashion, go on to whatever is next.  Don’t worry too much about the things that didn’t go right.  As I said at the beginning, failure is inevitable.  Pick yourself up.  Reorient yourself.  Adjust your goals and keep moving forward.  The same is true when you do well.  Never consider yourself done.  Accept your success.  Rejoice in it, but don’t let it define you.  Look for the next goal, the next challenge, the next dream.  Being stuck in past successes is just as stagnating as being stuck in failure.  If you aren’t moving forward you’re standing still at best or going backwards at worst.  The world doesn’t stand still and neither should we.

Graduates of 2018 (and anyone else reading along), your life will be full of both failures and successes.  Allow them to inspire you to fulfill your dreams.  You may never have the same kind of long term influence that Walt Disney did, but who really does?  What you will have is a life lived in service to your dreams.  A life that is not perfect, but fulfilling.  A life that leads you to the achievement of your goals however big or small they may be.  Ultimately, that is all any of us can dream of.

Congratulations!