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Moana  photo

Watch the fantastic "You're Welcome" from Disney's Moana

Thank you indeed
Nov 29
// Nick Valdez
If you didn't get to catch Disney's newest dynamo Moana over the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney has helpfully (and awesomely) given a little preview. Although I didn't get to gush about it as much as I wanted to in our review, ...

Review: Moana

Nov 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221047:43203:0[/embed] MoanaDirectors: John Musker and Ron ClementsRelease Date: November 23, 2016Rating: PG Moana follows the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a teenager who's always dreamed of traveling the seas beyond her island village, but is next in line for village chieftain and must stay home. When darkness begins rotting away her home, brought on when the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) steals the heart of the ancient goddess Te Fiti, Moana must journey across the sea, find Maui and ask him for help, and return the Heart of Te Fiti from where it came. From its core, Moana is much different from Disney's other princess films. Choosing instead to follow Moana on a hero's journey, rather than a quest for love, the film allows for individual character development thanks to its simplicity. While this simplicity may mirror Disney's previous films a bit too much, it is honestly what makes Moana work as well as it does.  Directors Musker and Clements have experience creating lasting Disney legacies with the two of them directing hits like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Great Mouse Detective. Basically, these two are responsible for a good deal of your favorite Disney moments and it's the same with Moana. The film may share too many structural similarities with previous films because of their choices, but it's also sure to make up for that simplicity with a complex emotional through line and culture. It's what previous Disney Princess films had lacked, and it's what Frozen experimented with. With a simplified tale, the film allows the characters to add layers of depth. Instead of growing as a character in relation to another person, i.e when Ariel changes herself for Prince Eric, for example, Moana's tale is all about self-improvement. It's not complicated with extraneous plot like a third act twist villain or jokes from a cartoon sidekick, Moana instead sticks to its heart with its two central characters and builds everything around them.  Being a character first type of fairy tale, Moana trusts in its two stars to make it work. Thankfully, Dwayne Johnson and the awesomely talented newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho more than hold their own. Johnson as Maui is energetic and as charming as he ever is, but, coupled with Maui's slightly mischievous character design, now has a slight edge missing from some of Johnson's work. His song, "You're Welcome" is also fantastic. His single is definitely a standout with a blend of humor and musicality. But I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how impressed I am by the young Auli’i Cravalho. You would never be able to tell, but as her first major starring role, Cravalho is an absolute delight. Once again marrying character design and performance, Cravalho makes Moana a believable kid. Moana is astonishingly the first Disney Princess to act like an actual young girl. She's awkward sometimes, but has an endearing moxie that characterized classic princesses like Mulan, Ariel, and Tiana. But unlike the other Princesses, Moana is allowed to have non-romantic flaws.  You're probably a bit worried since I keep comparing Moana to previous films, but it's entirely intentional. Musker and Clements intended to recapture the spirit of the 2D films. Every part of its production fully embraces nostalgia, while making sure to change enough to keep the film from repeating the past too much. Thanks to the phenomenal soundtrack from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina, every scene has just a bit more punch. The opening, for example, is kind of incredible. As the film introduces its setting and unique culture (as the Oceanic island culture is far more three dimensional than cultures seen in films past), its punctuated by an incredible chant-like song mirroring The Lion King's now prolific opening. While I'm not sure if its lead single's, "How Far I'll Go," contemporary style will outlast the Broadway appeal of its predecessor, it's still heart-opening. Jemaine Clement's surprise song performance is pretty great too, as it plays to his creepy wheelhouse. Also, the most beautiful song and performance overall is the ancestor song. I don't want to spoil it, but just trust that it's fantastic. But none of this character work or music would succeed without Moana's unbelievable visuals. Moana has Disney's most exemplary animation to date with its luscious landscape and gorgeous ocean animations. The setting itself is a main character, and somehow feels fantasical yet attainable. It's an island paradise capturing the mythical nature of its fairy tale, but also looks grounded enough to exist in our world. There's no skirting the Pacific Islander culture here, unlike the other Princess' films dilution of ethnicity. The character body design is diverse, with Moana herself looking less plastic and moving more fluidly than humans seen in Tangled or Frozen. Thanks to its full embrace of what makes it different, the story's complex emotion and culture seem simplistic. See? Full circle. It's simplicity by design. Blending its depth so well and sneaking in character development through song, I didn't realize how much I had experienced until I started writing this review. The only real problem I had with Moana overall was how some of its contemporary jokes and song arrangements (There's a Twitter reference and other meta jokes) betray the timeless quality of its setting, but honestly it's not that big of a deal. Moana is definitely one of the better theatrical experiences of 2016, and in a year full of strife, it's what we need right now.  Its nostalgic quality may turn some off of Moana, but the film is still incredibly fresh despite these parallels to the past. It's a Disney Princess film taking the successes of the past, fixes their problems, and injects a breath of life into Disney they haven't had for quite some time. Moana is for the child in you, your children, and even their children. And who knows? Moana may just go down as a "classic" years down the line. 
Moana Review photo
Hawaiian roller coaster ride
Disney Animation has had one critical success after another since they're in the middle of a new creative renaissance. Fully embracing CG animation, Disney has produced hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and most im...

Moana Trailer photo
Oh my gosh.
With as good of a roll Disney has been on lately, I've seen many people joke along the lines of "I will push children out of the way to see this" and for the first time, I completely agree. While this newest trailer gives awa...

Moana Trailer photo
Moana Trailer

Here's the first trailer for Disney's Moana

Favorite film of 2016, calling it now
Jun 13
// Nick Valdez
Disney's animation studio has been on a Pixar like roll lately with Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia netting huge critical and financial success. Their newest princess film Moana already blows those films out of the water.&nb...

Moana photo

Disney casts its next princess, Moana

Oct 07
// Nick Valdez
I've been pretty excited for Disney's Moana since it was announced. After hearing their next project was about a Polynesian princess, and after Frozen, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled turned out pretty good, they've ea...
Cinderella Trailer photo
Cinderella Trailer

International trailer for Cinderella works them shoes

Dec 17
// Nick Valdez
I'm caught in a pickle, folks. While I want Disney's live action version of Cinderella to be different from its animated counterpart (so it has a reason to exist other than money), I don't like the changes. Thus the latest t...
Cinderella Trailer photo
Cinderella Trailer

First full trailer for Disney's live action Cinderella

"I can call a car I ain't tryin to stress ya, I'm looking for the one with the glass slippa'"
Nov 19
// Nick Valdez
Cinderelly, Cinderelly, look what they've done to you, Cinderelly. But seriously, this is the one live action adaptation I don't understand. It's going to make oodles of money sure, those glass slippers look damn good (but t...
Moana photo

Disney's Moana gets synopsis and new release date

Oct 21
// Nick Valdez
When we'd last heard about Disney's next animated (possibly princess) film, Moana, it was working in the same style as their gorgeous Paperman short and was debuting in 2018. Looks like production has sped up over the la...
Enchanted 2 photo
Enchanted 2

Enchanted 2 is still happening because money

Jul 03
// Nick Valdez
Wait..."still"? Yes, a sequel to the 2007 Disney Princess film Enchanted has been in the works for some time now, but it hasn't progressed passed the "it should happen" stage. But now that Frozen was a mega hit for Disney, th...
Beauty and The Beast photo
Beauty and The Beast

Disney's Beauty and the Beast getting live action treatment

No one pimps like Gaston.
Jun 05
// Nick Valdez
The tale as old as time is getting retold once again as Disney's massive success with Maleficent (and presumed success with its future live action Cinderella film) has geared them toward an adaptation of one of the more famou...

Review: Maleficent

May 31 // Nick Valdez
[embed]217782:41555:0[/embed] MaleficentDirector: Robert StrombergRelease Date: May 30, 2014Rated: PG The film follows Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), a young fairy who once fell in love with a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley). After he betrays her in order to become king, Maleficent, angry at the deception, curses his child to a deep sleep at age sixteen. But as the years go on, Maleficent watches Aurora (Elle Fanning) grow and questions her true motives. Does she really want to see that little girl suffer? Oh, and the whole time Stefan is actively trying to kill Maleficent for reasons.  Maleficent is actually my favorite Disney villainess. She's a powerful woman who's just evil for evil's sake. She didn't need a reason (even if attacking a princess seemed petty on the surface), she reviled in a charismatic foul charm that helped her stick out from the other Disney villains (and led to her breakout role in the Kingdom Hearts series). But Maleficent decides to throw all of that out by completely re-writing Sleeping Beauty. Changing the events of that film, Maleficent is more of an origin, good guy gone bad then gone good again story. It's not exactly a bad fairy tale, but it's abruptly different. It's a lot more clean than the older version (Maleficent just has powers instead of drawing her fire power from Hell, for example), but with that sterility comes a lack of oomph.  But strangely enough, as much as Maleficent wants to become its own film, it's paradoxically at its best when it mirrors the original animated film. For example, the scene Maleficent is most famous for (crashing Baby Aurora's christening) is just fantastic here. Jolie is in top form as she delivers cheesy line after line (and diehards will be pleased to know most of that scene's dialogue is ripped straight from Sleeping Beuaty with a few welcome changes) in a completely hammy way. But given the overzealous nature of the story, it all absolutely works. She's fierce, she's charming, she's alluring, and every little side smirk or stare nails it. If Disney ever pushes forward with another live action Maleficent, or use the character in any matter, casting someone other than Jolie would be a huge mistake. She is Maleficent. But while Jolie doesn't phone it in, the same can't be said for everything else. While brisk in pace, the story feels a bit hollow as it doesn't quite know which audience to appeal to. You can gauge a sense of turmoil as it clashes between kid friendly and serious. There are a few scenes that can pass off as actual drama, but are stuck in between a trio of awful pixies. The three pixies (whose names have been changed to Flittle, Knotgrass, and Thistlewhit for some reason) are just awful. Their involvement does manage to provide one cute moment (as Maleficent toys with them for pleasure), but I don't remember their characters being this intrusive or plastic in Sleeping Beauty. Elle Fanning is okay with what little she has, Sharlto Copley turns a nice paranoid individual, and that's pretty much it. It's all Angelina Jolie's show, but that's okay.  The main problem with Maleficent doesn't lie with its pale story or cheap action sequences, it's defanging Maleficent herself. You can tell for yourself too. It hits an extremely high point in the middle of the film when Maleficent is at her most evil, and it's fantastic. Yet, when she's de-clawed and the film begins to root for her, her black leather outfits and razor sharp cheekbones just aren't as appealing. It just becomes another generic fairy tale film where folks speak in faux English accents for indistinguishable reasons.  But I reaalllllllly liked Angelina Jolie in this. I'm serious. Seeing her act out the famous Sleeping Beauty scene is well worth the price of admission. Keep workin' those horns, gurl. 
Maleficent Review photo
The fireball at the party
I've been anticipating Maleficent for a long time. As a big Disney fan, I don't usually like when Disney decides to make a live action version of one of their properties (101 Dalmations is worse than you remember, trust me), ...

Cinderella teaser photo
Cinderella teaser

First teaser and poster for Disney's live action Cinderella

You can be my Cinderella -ella -ella -eh -eh -eh
May 16
// Nick Valdez
This first teaser for Kenneth Branagh's live action take on Disney's Cinderella gives really good shoe. The film isn't hitting theaters until 2015, so don't expect major details, but I'm sure it'll involve a stepmother, a ha...
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Maleficent gets some dreamy looking character posters

Them cheekbones.
May 06
// Nick Valdez
I didn't bring this up in our big Summer Preview (because I've said this many times before), but I'm really looking forward to Disney's Maleficent. It's just oozing with style. I mean, get a load of these character posters fo...
Maleficent photo

These Maleficent images are just so pretty

Ugh, be in my eyes already
Apr 17
// Nick Valdez
I honestly can't express how excited I am for Maleficent. I'm a huge fan of the Disney Princess films (I'm a Princess at heart, you know), and a fan of Angelina Jolie, so Maleficent is like a peanut butter meets chocolate sit...

Check it out: female Disney characters redesigned as pixel art Street Fighter characters

Mar 28
// Liz Rugg
Artist and designer Mike V has been making an awesome set of pixel drawings of Disney princesses and other female Disney characters as classic Street Fighter and Capcom fighting videogame characters. From Belle, Jasmine and S...

Angelina Jolie spreads her wings in new 'Maleficent' trailer

Up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear
Mar 20
// Isabelle Magliari
The newest trailer for Disney's Maleficent reveals more of the dark fairy's origin story, along with a first glimpse at her massive wings in action. For all the questionable CGI in this trailer, Maleficent taking flight...
Maleficent Trailer 3 photo
Maleficent Trailer 3

Newest Maleficent trailer is the dreamiest one yet

That "Once Upon a Dream" cover? YES THANK YOU
Jan 28
// Nick Valdez
The third trailer for Maleficent has to be the best one yet, or at the very least, the most interesting. It has different footage from the other two (or is at least cut in such a way that I didn't notice), Angelina Jolie is ...
Frozen  photo

Frozen's "Let It Go" sung in 25 different languages

Jan 23
// Nick Valdez
No, I'm not sick at all of talking about how much I loved Disney's Frozen (put it on all three of my Top X of 2013 lists this year), so of course I'm using this time to gush again. Here we have a video of Idina Menzel's "Let...
Maleficent Trailer 2 photo
Maleficent Trailer 2

Angelina Jolie is horny in second Maleficent trailer

Haha, puns.
Jan 21
// Nick Valdez
Because of Frozen, I've come to expect more out of Disney's princess films in a desperate hope that they can keep the momentum going. Their first immediate attempt is Maleficent, the live action spin-off prequel thing starri...
Frozen  photo
Legally, of course.
At this rate, Frozen is shaping up to be my favorite movie of 2013. If the above clip of Elsa (Idina Menzel) singing the film's stand out single, "Let It Go," doesn't convince you, then I've failed as a person. Although I said in the review that you shouldn't let it be spoiled for you, there's still plenty else to look forward to.  Go see Frozen already. 

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Good. Because Frozen is fantastic.
Ever since I walked out of Frozen (while giving it my highest review score ever) I've been on a constant Frozen hype train much to the dismay of my fellow Flixist editors. The film is the best thing Disney has put out in ages...

Review: Frozen

Nov 27 // Nick Valdez
[embed]216902:40956:0[/embed] FrozenDirectors: Chris Buck and Jennifer LeeRated: PGRelease Date: November 27, 2013 Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen," Frozen takes place in the Nordic kingdom of Arendelle (complete with amazing details like books and graves that don't need to pander to the audience by using legible English) where sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) have to cope with the death of their parents (another trope of classic Disney!). While they were close as children, as Elsa slowly loses control of her ice powers, she begins to shut her self in her room (at the wish of her father) for fear that she might hurt her sister again after a freak accident causes the loss of Anna's memory. On the day of her coronation as Queen, Elsa loses control of her ice powers, locks Arendelle in an eternal winter, and it's up to Princess Anna and her new pals to help Elsa not feel so alone.  Just by the summary you should realize that like the better half of Disney animated films, there are strong adult thematic elements while the film remains deceptively simple for younger audiences. On the surface, Frozen is a hero's journey in which by traveling to save her sister from herself, Anna grows as a person. And if you look deeper, you realize both Anna's longing for companionship and Elsa's want for isolation both represent a deeper need to accept themselves and their troubled past. For the children watching who may not catch the darker tones presented here (again, one of Classic Disney's greatest attributes is the ability to tell a dark story while managing to be suitable and entertaining for children), there's plenty to latch on to as the film's comedy is spot on.  For those like myself who were worried that Frozen was going the way of Tangled (too cute for its own good) thanks to the Olaf focused advertising, you should know that Olaf isn't that bad. Josh Gadd makes Olaf bearable, and even enjoyable. Although he is the goofy sidekick, he's given a pretty hilarious defining character trait: his unstoppable optimism. It's hard to not like the guy when given the imagery of a snowman singing about the heat of Summer while completely oblivious to the laws of physics. And he doesn't particularly get in the way. While his inclusion in the film is a Classic Disney staple, he helps the plot along, saves the day in a few ways, and manages to become the physical manifestation of Anna and Elsa's lost childhood wonder.  As for Anna and Elsa, they're some of the best Disney characters, female or otherwise. In recent years, the move toward a stronger feminist presence among the Princesses resulted in better films overall (Brave was fabulous in this regard). And that presence is delivered in spades with Frozen's two main women. Anna is officially my new favorite Disney Princess. Kristen Bell portrays the surprisingly well written character's dialogue with a charming awkwardness that makes Anna so lovable, it's hard not to root for her. And while Elsa is technically a queen, it's very much her and Idina Menzel's movie.  Like most Classic Disney films, Frozen is a musical, so most of its narrative is portrayed through song (rather that exist for existence's sake like in Tangled). If that scares you away (I hope it doesn't), you'll be missing out on some Disney tunes that will most likely stand the test of time. Idina Menzel's stand out single, "Let it Go" is such a gorgeous sequence (blending sassiness, stunning animation of her ice powers, and character development physically represented with an outfit change) that the song will most likely join many fans "Top Ten Disney Songs" lists for many years to come. The other songs in the soundtrack are great as well with only one notable clunker in the bunch. It's the animated sequences that help elevate the material.  Let me remedy the fact I keep throwing around the phrase "Classic Disney" without fully explaining myself. The films of my childhood were steeped in many dense subjects like death and acceptance (The Lion King), vanity and jealousy (Cinderella), isolation and longing (Beauty and the Beast) and even the perils of false manhood (Hercules). Thing is, I had no idea any of those subjects were being discussed at the time. All I knew was some good songs were playing, funny things happened, and it looked good to the eye. Frozen somehow makes me feel like a kid again. The complete dissolve into the film as I just sat and enjoyed the movie is something I haven't experienced as a critic in a long time.  But unfortunately while I enjoyed the experience, Frozen has a few faults which bear mentioning. The third act tends to drag on (tighter editing could have saved it), the ending is predictable, and while Olaf is enjoyable most of the time he does grate in some instances. In the same breath, it's hard to blame Frozen for its faults. While warming itself in the nostalgic sweater of Classic Disney, it falls into some of the same pitfalls. Anna has to fall in love with someone, there has to be a harshly cut to happy ending, there has to be one-joke one-note caricatures, there has to be some character decisions that don't make sense. Thankfully, Frozen (thanks to its tighter, than usual for Disney, script) gives us plenty of delightful twists and turns before its predictable end. You will know where the film is leading, but you won't know how it's going to get there.  There's so much more I wanted to talk about. Jonathan Groff plays a love interest that isn't a Prince and is all the better for it, there isn't a clear cut villain until the last third of the film (which shows growth in Disney's part), Frozen might not be so great for little boys (but in my screening, a little boy was singing "Let it Go" after it was over!), political intrigue is notably in the forefront of the film's events, the film's new definition of "true love" sets a new standard for Princess films going forward, the Mickey Mouse short, "Get a Horse," that plays beforehand is amazing and I could honestly keep going on all day.  But I'm stopping here. If you like the Disney Princess films of the past (and want to finally see one that isn't all about finding a man or proving she's as good as a man) and understand why they're so popular, then go see Frozen. See it before it's spoiled for you. See it before listening to the soundtrack. See it after watching a few of Disney's 2D animated films. Above all else, see it knowing full well you'll be happier after. 
Frozen Review photo
A film that defrosted this critic's cold, cold heart
I had no idea Disney's Frozen would deliver as much as it did. With Disney's latest Princess films (The Princess in the Frog and Tangled) doing well in some areas but fudging others, I did not expect a whole lot giv...

Maleficent Trailer photo
Maleficent is the fireball at the party.
Maleficent's one of Disney's most evil and cool looking villains. In Sleeping Beauty, she curses a baby because she wasn't invited to a party. And when it didn't go well, she turned into a cool looking dragon for no reason o...


First poster for Maleficent is sufficient

Nov 12
// Matthew Razak
On a scale of 1 to "Not Wearing Pants" I am currently at "Partially Disrobed" over my excitement for the upcoming Maleficent from Disney. We've had a peak at what Angelina Jolie is going to look like as the evil queen of...
Frozen Trailer photo
Frozen Trailer

First full trailer for Disney's Frozen isn't cold as ice

Nor does it give the cold shoulder.
Sep 27
// Nick Valdez
The first full length trailer for Disney's Frozen does share a bit with the Japanese version of the trailer released a few months back, but there's plenty of new material to chew on. It seems like Frozen is following in Tang...
Frozen Teaser photo
Frozen Teaser

Teaser Trailer: Frozen

Jun 20
// Nick Valdez
After the first batch of official images for Disney Animation Studios' Frozen failed to impress because they looked like something that's been done before, does the first official teaser for the film bring back the goodwill?...
Disney's Frozen photo
Disney's Frozen

First images of Disney's Frozen are eerily familiar

Uh oh, we might've seen this all before.
Jun 18
// Nick Valdez
A few months back there were a batch of faked character posters for Disney's Frozen we had to take down. I believed they were fakes because the character designs looked so much like the designs from Tangled, I figured th...

Brave's Merida to be crowned a Disney Princess

Apr 30
// Matthew Razak
Bet you didn't know that there was a whole coronation process to become a Disney Princess, but there is and on May 1 Merida will be crowned one. Joining (deep breathe) Snow White, Mulan, Aurora, Belle, Tiana, A...

Jenika's Top 5 Animated Movies of 2012

Jan 04 // Jenika Katz
Honorable mention: The Pirates! Band of Misfits [embed]208839:37988[/embed] I love Aardman films. Really, I do. Stop motion is one of my favorite animation techniques, and Aardman does it so well. Pirates! is a very cute movie, and the animation is great. When it came to making this list, however, it took a while to remember I'd seen it at all. The plot is a bit of a jumble, and actually seeing the movie doesn't feel too different from just watching the trailer. Still, it's a lot of fun, and well worth watching for the chuckles and the art style. Read our review of The Pirates! Band of Misfits here. 5. The Secret World of Arrietty [embed]207065:37834[/embed] Studio Ghibli's first film in a couple of years does not disappoint. Despite some odd voice acting and problems with audio levels, the movie is a big, fun adventure in a tiny, dangerous world. The characters are quirky and interesting, as one might have come to expect from this company, and the world they inhabit feels well-developed and just as big as its residents seem to find it. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, and a beautiful return to traditional 2D. Read our review of The Secret World of Arrietty here. 4. ParaNorman [embed]212494:38726[/embed] At a glance, ParaNorman is an amalgamation of successful money-grabs rolled into one movie. Kid that doesn't fit in? Check. Animation? Check. Zombies? Check. Directly following the success of Coraline, it would have a decent crowd right away. I had my reservations, but the result ended up being so much better than I could have hoped. The story has the same video game-y feel that Coraline gave, from the different environments to the final boss, and a similar sense of horror that's hard to find in an animated film. And the stop motion! Oh man, the stop motion. Stunning, smooth animation on intricate figures with detailed backgrounds. The only thing holding this movie back so far on this list is that section in the middle where Norman has to monologue. Monologuing is such a mood-killer. Read our review of ParaNorman here. 3. Wreck-It Ralph [embed]213488:39061[/embed] Speaking of movies with a video game-y feel to them, Wreck-It Ralph was another movie I was pleasantly surprised by. Cinematic odes to video games can go very poorly, and Sarah Silverman's voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me, but none of that mattered in the end. There's a level of heart in the movie beyond just the gamer nostalgia. Digital animation is so common-place that it almost feels detrimental to an otherwise great animated film, but Ralph escapes that feeling entirely. The real magic is in the little details, from the different ways the characters move to the “Aerith lives” graffitti on the walls of Game Central Station. Even Sarah Silverman couldn't ruin the fun of this movie for me. Read our review of Wreck-It Ralph here. 2. Frankenweenie [embed]211059:38476[/embed] Seriously, I don't know how three different companies released feature-length stop motion films this year, but I'm pretty sure it means that there is a God and he's trying to get in my pants. Frankenweenie was one of those movies I felt had no business being remade, and was adamantly opposed to...until I saw the trailer. Stop motion! Black and white! Burton's original style before he started casting Johnny Depp in everything! Still, it was hard not to be cynical. How could a short film about accepting death possibly reach a wide audience, especially such a young one, without being stripped and simplified? What a joy it was to discover that it was, indeed, possible. Frankenweenie delivered the same story, expanded to fit its original intent, with fantastic models and sets that used just enough technology to help the puppets defy gravity in the way they needed to. Best of all, it didn't shy away from the subject matter, and packed an emotional punch without feeling manipulative. Read our review of Frankenweenie here. 1. Brave [embed]210961:38439[/embed] Oh, Brave. One of the original inspirations for the Princess Review series was noting the lack of strong female characters in both Disney films and princess movies in general. Why couldn't there be a woman who could live life without a man? Why did every heroine need to be rescued and get married? My most anticipated film of 2012 had some lofty goals to meet, and it did not disappoint in the least. It feels like Brave took all the worst aspects of movies aimed at children and said, "Nope, not doing that." Merida is a real person, selfish and flawed, and her journey leads her to self-improvement and familial appreciation. The other characters have personal development and are not solely there to make the main character look better. The comic relief is actually comedic and not detrimental to the rest of the movie. The movie remains grounded in its time period and does not throw in pop culture references for a cheap laugh. It's more than just avoiding mistakes, of course. Brave takes a goal to have a strong female lead and accomplishes it, and does so without sacrificing entertainment or quality in the name of reaching a wider audience. The world is beautiful and the character style fits in well, and all of that is just a cherry on top of the rest of the experience. Read our review of Brave here. Read my Princess Review of Brave here.
5 Best Animations photo
Which movies came out on top in 2012?
In recent years, a lot of animated movies have been formulaic and underwhelming, but 2012 brought us the variety and quality that has been missing in the genre for a while. Sure, Disney brought back Beauty and the Beast, Find...

Princess Review: Brave

Jun 29 // Jenika Katz
  Merida is the first-born daughter of the DunBroch clan. Her father, King Fergus, rules over the three neighboring clans, MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall. Fergus is a huge man and a fierce warrior, and proudly displays the leg he lost defending his family against the enormous demon bear Mor'du. His warlike tendencies aren't exactly useful for ruling a kingdom, so most of the daily decisions and diplomacy fall on his wife, Queen Elinor.   As the oldest daughter in a monarchical society, Merida must marry the eldest son of one of the clans her father rules. Elinor tries desperately to raise her as a proper lady, but while Merida has her mother's wits, she has the aggression and free spirit of her father. She makes it clear that she prefers feasting, horse-riding, and archery to reciting poetry or looking dainty.  When her three suitors arrive to compete for her hand, Merida grows desperate. Stuffed into a tight dress and propped into a corner, she finds a loophole that allows her to choose her own hand, a trait very useful in marriage. This isn't exactly a diplomatic move, and Elinor thoroughly chews out her daughter before going to smooth things out. In retaliation, Merida slashes an intricate tapestry her mother made, and Elinor tosses Merida's bow in the fire. It is a very mature moment for everyone. Merida runs off to the forest to blow off some steam and finds a will o' the wisp creepily beckoning her to the scarier-looking trees. Following the wisp, she finds a little old witch in a house full of bear carvings. She asks the witch for a spell to change her mother (and thus her fate to marry for politics), and the witch hands her one in the form of a little pie, with a warning that previous customers were not entirely satisfied.  Merida arrives home and hands the pie to Elinor, who takes one bite and immediately gets sick. Merida leads her mother to her bedroom, asking incessantly about whether or not she still has to get married. Her inquiries only stop when Elinor falls to the ground moaning and then turns into a bear. Fearing for her mother's life in the fear of King Fergus' bear bloodlust, Merida smuggles Elinor out of the castle and back to the witch's castle. The witch is gone, but she left a note mentioning that the spell would be permanent in two days unless Merida can realize she's been a massive brat.  Merida and Elinor camp out in the woods and enjoy a good ol' fishing trip bond, where it becomes apparent that Elinor is mentally becoming more bear-like. Merida realizes that she has to mend the tapestry to fix her mother, and the two rush back to the castle.  In order to distract the nobles in the castle and get her mother upstairs, Merida tries to announce her decision to marry. Elinor tells her to announce instead that she will be breaking tradition and marrying when she is well ready for it. They get to the tapestry, but Elinor is chased out of the castle before they can mend it. Merida finishes the tapestry on horseback and throws it over her mother just as the sun rises, restoring her humanity and leaving them with a deeper understanding of one another.   In the beginning, Merida is at that point in her teens where, while she knows deep down that her mother really does want the best for her, the overwhelming unfairness of her whole situation keeps her from thinking rationally, instead lashing out at her mother in an attempt to gain some sort of control over her tumultuous emotions. Over the course of the story, she reaches that point in your teens where you realize what an ass you've been to your parents and how much they've done for you, and just as she does, she faces losing her mother forever.   Of course, I doubt any of the young girls watching Brave will get the full implication of this, since the idea of being friends with your mother isn't really plausible until you've matured enough not to be a little jerk all the time. Because of that, they probably won't cry profusely at the end, but they will hopefully get the message that Mom really does love them and doesn't do things to hurt them.  I also happen to be posting this on my mother's birthday, so here's to you, Mom! Please don't turn into a bear. The difference between Merida and most of the other princesses is that she knows how young she is and wants to remain that way. Real princesses have  to deal with the stress of partially ruling a kingdom, and have to take enormous responsibility with their personal lives. They will have the same job forever, and messing up will mean much more than just getting fired. They also have to worry about passing on their lineage, so whether they like it or not, they're going to be having more than a few children.    Merida knows all of this full well. Like many of the other princesses, she has a melodramatic teenage reaction to the things in her life, but it works in this case. Other princesses throw tantrums because they're not viewed as adults, and Merida throws them to prove otherwise.   Interestingly, while most princesses are defined by how much everyone loved them, nobody really seems to like Merida. Her family certainly loves her despite their frustration with her actions, but the townspeople all frown when she passes and the potential suitors seem pretty put-off when they realize what she's really like. Merida's only real friend is her horse, and even he smacks her in the face. It's a fair message to girls that caring only for yourself won't win you any friends. While Merida's spell doesn't have the intended effect, and it takes coming to a mutual understanding to change Elinor's mind as well as Merida's, Merida does eventually get what she wants. Brave is not the most subtle of Pixar movies, but to a young audience, this still may not be completely clear. This is only a slight worry, however, especially in light of the atrocity of the messages in other princess movies. Beauty and the Beast's messages of changing the one you love absolutely ruined the movie in the sense of morality, portraying an abusive relationship as something easily changeable, but Brave's messages are far less damaging. Both Merida and Elinor change naturally, and hopefully it will be clear to young girls that it is one's behavior that changes others, not magic. Brave does not end in marriage. Hell, Brave does not end in dating. While Merida does meet her potential suitors, and does show some slight interest, her casual interest is not pushed for the sake of giving her a fairy tale ending. Merida is not ready for a relationship, and she sticks with that. She does mature enough to know that one day she'll have to take the plunge, and she's open to the idea, but for now, her family is what matters.   The amount of products aimed at girls with a focus on marriage is disturbing, and it's refreshing to see a movie that shows that marriage is a pretty big deal and shouldn't be treated lightly.    Aside from some slight clarity issues, Brave is an absolutely wonderful influence for young girls. Encouraging friendly behavior and familial love while discouraging early marriage and quick fixes to tough problems? Brilliant. The fact that it highlights athleticism only adds bonus points, because archery is a lot of fun. Previous Princess Reviews:Snow White and the Seven DwarvesCinderellaSleeping BeautyThe Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin The Swan PrincessPocahontasAnastasiaMulanEnchantedThe Princess and the Frog

While Pixar is known for its emotional depth and memorable characters, it has been sorely lacking in female protagonists. There are certainly a few interesting female characters, but they are always in the shadows of thei...

Review: Brave

Jun 21 // Jenika Katz
[embed]210961:38439[/embed] BraveDirectors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve PurcellRating: PGRelease Date: June 22nd, 2012 Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) is the first-born child of the DunBroch Clan. While her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), would like her to be more of a demure lady, Merida prefers her free, athletic lifestyle. Merida's father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), keeps the peace between the Dunbroch Clan and the three neighboring clans, MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall. Keeping with tradition, the three clans bring their oldest sons to seek the princess' hand. This is not the sort of life Merida wants for herself, so she sets out to change her fate. Fairy tales have been Disney's property for a long time, and while the companies may have merged, there's still something different about Pixar movies. That something seems to be missing. Parts of the movie seem to be aimed at younger children than Pixar usually goes for, and while the movie is still very fulfilling for adults, the multi-layered meanings often present with Pixar aren't there. The story is straightforward but not without its twists, due mostly to some relatively secretive advertising. Sure, you may already know that Merida has a bow, and that there's a huge bear that ate her dad's leg, but the details are pretty vague. Even the new merchandising that spoils some very key aspects of the plot does not give away the main events of the story. Not only was this Pixar's first attempt at a fairy tale, but it was also their first time featuring a female protagonist. Some might say it wasn't much of a leap of faith to have a princess as a protagonist given Disney's success with the Princess franchise, but Pixar didn't make a standard princess movie. Merida is an athlete, aggressive and not entirely mature, and her wild, unbrushed hair more than makes up for the femininity of her period-appropriate dresses. Her behavior is, at first, brash to the point of some alienation, but her growth over the course of the movie feels organic and rewarding. The other characters are charming, but with a few exceptions, they are mostly two-dimensional. The Lords and their sons that seek Merida's hand are one-note characters but very enjoyable, and the various clansmen that dot the castle. While all of them would feel slightly lacking on their own, their union makes for enough variation that the entourage feels fun instead of forced. Merida's triplet brothers and their nanny, on the other hand, exist solely as comic relief, and the movie would feel slightly more polished were they absent from it. With that said, Merida's mother and father feel very well fleshed-out, and the film makes good use of every scene they're in to make for a very emotionally moving combination. The end result of a movie romance is usually obvious from the beginning, if not from the trailers alone, and there's a reason Brave doesn't give any hints to the outcome. Merida's love life is simultaneously the center of the story and completely irrelevant, with the focus instead on her relationship with her family. A story centered around a teen girl is usually sure to have a whirlwind of emotions regarding her romantic interests, and it's refreshing to have a princess that is more than marriage and lineage. The visuals are absolutely stunning. One expects a lot out of Pixar in this department, and they don't disappoint. After the technological marvel that was Violet's long, straight hair in The Incredibles, Pixar decided to go full-force in making the most difficult hair imaginable, and it is absolutely fantastic. Not only does Merida's hair look real when static, but it bounces and moves so naturally that it even blows awkwardly across her face like real hair would. It sounds silly to make such a big deal out of small details, but each of those details absolutely demands your attention. From the tiniest stitch of tartan fabric to the different ways fur moves when dry or wet, it's incredible how realistic the movie can look while still maintaining a cartoonish aesthetic. The environments are incredibly detailed and immersive, and even though I'm sure it's still gorgeous in 2D, the landscaping alone is worth shelling out an extra few bucks for the 3D. There are no cheap gimmicks, and the depth just helps you inhabit the world. While the characters themselves have a more stylized look to them, the lakes and forests they inhabit look just like the real thing, and it's stunning. If Scotland doesn't get a fair bump in tourism after this, I'd be very surprised. For Pixar's first attempt at both a fairy tale and a female protagonist, Brave does a solid job. It doesn't quite feel like the high caliber that we expect from Pixar, but its more family-friendly atmosphere fits well with the themes of familial love and appreciation. The overall experience is still gorgeous and emotionally-charged. If possible, this is definitely a movie to bring your parents to, and if you can't, you'll want to call them later. Either way, Brave is well worth seeing the moment it's out. Alex Katz- Brave is Pixar's best-looking movie to date, which is something I think writers are getting tired of saying every year about every movie they make. But damn if they don't keep improving their work by leaps and bounds, and you have only to look at Merida's hair to see the huge leap forward this movie represents in terms of technical prowess. That aside, Brave is definitely one of Pixar's less clever efforts. There's not as much imagination put into the world here, beautiful as it may be. What we have, though, is a stunningly well-told fairy tale as traditional as Pixar is ever likely to do with a fantastic cast and some wonderful changing mother-daughter dynamics. Brave may not be one of Pixar's best, but it's damn well memorable and beautiful to behold. 80- Great

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