The Mice and Men of Disney: 5 Heroes Who Never Get Their Due
Like most adult people, we didn't really pay attention to the world of Disney. Whenever a new film came out, we briefly acknowledged whatever story they'd chosen to animate and then moved on with our day. Now we have a daughter, and like most parents you start getting into Disney culture...a culture that has some serious problems, in our opinion.
The Disney princess movement is really beginning to annoy us. We understand that the point of the whole thing, aside from making huge amounts of money, of course, is to give little girls a bevy of female protagonists to identify with. The problem is, we feel that they've become so dedicated to this narrative that they have actively begun sacrificing any male roles in the stories. That's too bad because there have been some truly badass boys in the films, and each one is dying the sad death of undermarketing. Such as..
Basil is the lead in The Great Mouse Detective, which is basically just Sherlock Holmes with mice. The film is ripe for rediscovery, what with the steampunk craze continuing to build and Holmes himself getting not one but two highly successful reboots. Yet, because the film focuses almost exclusively on a male protagonist and doesn't fit in the princess scheme at all, it sits forgotten.
Which is a shame because not only did Basil save the Queen of England in his own film, he saved every single princess from Ariel to Mulan. Basically, Disney was seriously thinking about ditching its animation department in the '80s. Don Bluth had left the company and proceeded to drink Mickey's milkshake with The Secret of NIMH. Meanwhile, Disney suffered a serious flop with The Black Cauldron.
Jersey Boys (Touring)
TicketsTue., Nov. 15, 7:30pm
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses - Master Quest
TicketsFri., Nov. 18, 8:00pm
TicketsSat., Nov. 19, 7:00pm
John Cleese & Eric Idle
TicketsTue., Nov. 29, 7:30pm
Jeff Dunham: Perfectly Unbalanced Tour
TicketsThu., Dec. 1, 7:30pm
Disney gave it one more go with Great Mouse Detective in 1986. Unfortunately it came out the same year as a similar film, Bluth's An American Tale (Another reason it's been forgotten), but it did do well enough financially and critically to convince management that there was still money in animation. Two years later they broke all the rules with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and the year after that released The Little Mermaid, which sealed Disney at the top of the game until Shrek came along.
So yeah, half of those princesses you see on every damned lunch box? They owe it to Basil.
Pocahontas isn't a terribly great film aside from the fact that it's got a particularly excellent soundtrack. Mostly it exists so that Disney can fill out its ethnicity card more fully. Our two leads, Pocahontas and John Smith, really deserve no accolades, as both of them are denser than frozen bison poo, and the respective leaders they answer to are generally even worse.
Thomas is Smith's sidekick, and at first it looks like he exacerbates the situation into conflict when he kills a jealous suitor of Pocahontas who rushes at Smith in a rage. This leads to Smith's capture and all of the final act. Oh, if only he hadn't killed that pissed-off, murderous...wait.
Exactly. If Thomas hadn't stepped in and saved Smith, then Smith would've died. If you think that anything would've saved the Native Americans after that, then you didn't read your history very deeply. Thomas started out as sort of a nincompoop, but in the end he was the only one thinking even half clearly throughout the film.
We're not the first to point this out, but the Beast is not the good guy in Beauty and the Beast. He kidnaps Belle's father for basically no reason at all, accepts Belle as his permanent prisoner in his place, starves her, is verbally abusive, threatens her physically, and basically behaves like he's on meth for most of the film. He turns over a new leaf, sure, after Belle, the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome, melts his heart with her misguided love, but if our daughter ever ended up in a similar situation, you can be sure that that man would be the most efficient bowel mover ever what with all the new assholes we would carve him.
By contrast, Gaston is popular, financially comfortable, a town leader, driven to succeed and much braver than the Beast. Sure, he's an oaf, but at no point in the film is it ever put forth that he doesn't honestly care for her. He's just too meatheaded to express it in any way other than frat boyspeak. When Aladdin tried that to Jasmin as Prince Ali, everyone thought it was cute.
Bear in mind, when Gaston leads an angry mob against the Beast, the Beast had already kidnapped two townfolk, both of whom had come back acting very strange. As far as he knew there was a monstrous wizard just up the road, and he takes pains to eradicate it as it is clearly dangerous. He treats Belle better in every way than the Beast does, and the one thing he does do that is somewhat evil is threaten (not actually carry out, but threaten) to have Belle's father locked away...something the Beast had already done and Belle still went out with him anyway. Seriously, Team Gaston, all the way.
Nobody gets the shaft harder than the Disney princes. Jasmine snags all the merchandising even though the name of the movie is Aladdin, and he did all the work in the damned film. The only contribution Jasmine made was to kiss a vaguely unpleasant Arab guy for a few seconds.
Then there's Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid. For sure, he is slower in the uptake than a one-legged man hopping back into a minefield, but in his defense the war between Ursula and Ariel over his affections is more mind-bogglingly silly than all three seasons of Rock of Love combined, so maybe we can forgive him for not understanding what the hell was going on since thanks to Ariel he didn't suffer enough brain damage from almost drowning to recognize all the stupid trying to grab his junk.
In the end, when all hope is lost, and even the king of the sea and pretty much the combined forces of good are uselessly losing all their shit unable to stop Ursula, it's Eric who mans up and drives a derelict ship right into her stomach. Where the hell is this man's action figure? Though in the end even he pales next to...
Prince Phillip is the most badass man in all of Disney history, and we're willing to bet the name barely rings a bell. He's the hero of Sleeping Beauty, and the way that Aurora has hogged the spotlight from him is just criminal.
Yes, the film is called Sleeping Beauty, but you know what that means? It means during the important part of the film she's off taking a nap. Meanwhile, Phillip fights his way through the single most frightening villain Disney ever invented. Even when Maleficent turns into a massive dragon, Phillip simply continues to give only stabs where a lesser man might've considered maybe giving at least a few fucks. The result is a fight scene that plays out like Isildur versus Sauron, and has not been rivaled since.
Yet, after all that work only Aurora's lazy ass ends up stocking the stores with bric-a-brac. Hell, Maleficent got a starring role in Kingdom Hearts, and not once did anyone say, hey, maybe Sora could enlist the aid of the guy who single-handedly made her a stain. Instead you can summon Bambi for aid. We're starting to think Disney is blacklisting Phillip in case he comes to life and steals all the animator's girlfriends that totally live in Canada.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.