Modern Disney: Mixed Responses

Amidst all the “New Moon” hoopla that has sadly distracted tweens of all sorts, people have forgotten that Disney is releasing a new throwback animated movie called “The Princess and the Frog.” You’ve likely seen a trailer for it somewhere.

I know what you’re saying. “Bro, really, a Disney column? You out of ideas?”

No, not really. I have an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia whenever I see that trailer, because I have a serious love affair with throwback Disney movies. I’m not even keeping in mind the near flawless record Pixar has, as I often look forward to those movies more than any movie during the year. But while Pixar’s timeless stories do remind me of my childhood, they’re very much modern and look ahead of their time.

So yeah, though “The Princess and the Frog” doesn’t capture my imagination like, say, “Aladdin” or “The Lion King” did when I was a young dude watching those trailers, it still looks pretty interesting to me. When I was a kid in the 90s (as most of us were), Disney could do no wrong. The few times I even went to a movie theater was to catch a Disney film. In fact, “The Lion King” was the only movie I had seen in theaters twice until high school. Once the video cassette (that’s right, video cassette) came out, I watched the movie so many times on one of my sick days that I could practically recite the entire thing to my brother — until he threatened to beat the crap out of me. To this day I still sing the classic “Aladdin” tune “A Whole New World” to any girl I keep in contact with for more than a week.

The 90s were a pretty great time for Disney. And really, it might be the last Disney animated “Golden Era” for a while, unless we change the definition. Dating back to the 40s and most recently in the 90s, Disney has churned out batches of animated classics that have had kids bouncing to theaters and leaving with giant grins. But with the growing trends in pop culture, from the Internet to the obscene popularity of films like “New Moon,” who knows how many more of these old school animated movies Disney will put out.

Not only are those trends working against Disney — Disney is working against Disney. Disney’s purchase of Pixar in 2006 looked like Disney realized the new breed of animation and was setting up shop there. CGI animation looked like the future, putting an end to a simplicity that had captured so many throughout the years.

OK, maybe it’s not as dramatic as that sounds. Still, it’s sort of a bummer. “The Princess and the Frog” is opening and will have to compete with “New Moon” for fans. Disney films traditionally do pretty well in the box office, but with “New Moon” already shattering records last week, holding strong against a retro looking Disney movie would be impressive. The sad thing is, it’s pretty much expected. The attention span of the average kid is quickly changing with the rest of pop culture, and that could spell the end of successful non-CGI animation. A flip book morphing into a cartoon might have fascinated a kid in the 90s but it might frustrate a kid in the new millennium.
It’s fine to embrace the change; I already have a deep love for Pixar movies. But it’s nice to remember what was cool when we were kids, and why it was cool. If you haven’t already experienced it, well, let me share this whole new world with you.