To All the People Who Grew Up With the Disney Renaissance
By Robbie Seymour
“KRONK! Why did I think you could do this? This one simple thing? It’s like I’m talking to a monkey! A really, really big stupid monkey named Kronk! And you want to know something else? I never liked your spinach puss! NEVAH!” Okay, I’m going to be totally honest when I say that I do recite famous lines from Disney hits quite often. Why? Well, this was my childhood, blessed with the exposure of great films like Aladdin, Tarzan, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. No offense to Frozen but while it was a good film, it will never beat the films that I grew up with and have come to love as a young adult. It’s a little disappointing that Disney movies can’t live up to the same standards as the Golden Era that took place when our generation was younger. If there is one thing parents today need to do is show their children the big hits of Disney during the late 80s, 90s, and early 2000s so that they can grow up and acquire some respect for the movies that have emerged as timeless features that transcend the magic of the contemporary Disney films.
So why I am writing about Disney in the first place? Well, what’s not to love about Disney? First of all, the songs from the Disney Renaissance era are unforgettable. The music is soulful and can easily help you block out all the negativity in the world and also teach important lessons that still need to be taught today. It was the song Colors of the Wind that taught me to be open and accepting to other people no matter what racial background they might come from. The song Reflection taught me to look inside myself and to be true to who I am even if I am unsure about how to identify myself. And of course Hakuna Matata taught me to not let everything in life cause me worry and to let loose and have fun. Of course there are other beautiful songs that have touched me over the years that I have not mentioned, and I wish that the radio would play more of these captivating singles so that the younger generations don’t fall out of touch with the hits that their older siblings and parents first heard back in the day. While the song Let it Go is a good song, I do believe that the radio did ultimately do a disservice to itself and to Disney by constantly playing it to the point where people became agitated and wanted to hear something different. While the movie Frozen was good, I do believe that it is a little overrated in my opinion.
Part of the appeal of Disney and why it has a profound affect over people’s lives is the memorable characters that we have all grown to admire with time. Sorry Anna and Elsa, but despite the wonderful relationship that you share as sisters and not falling for a prince, Mulan will always be my favorite feminist Disney icon since she not only didn’t fall for a prince, but she also managed to break tradition in order to protect her father from dying in the army while at war. As for the villains, I can remember feeling intimidated with Scar whose voice dripped with sly wickedness and Jafar’s maniacal laughter. Gaston was the villain that made every guy want to acquire large muscles however he was also the villain that many males (and females) despised because of how cruel and arrogant he was towards everyone around him. Then there’s Yzma. A larger than life diva who definitely knew how to send chills down people’s spines and crack audiences up with her explosive temper, klutziness, irritation and banter with Kronk, as well as her being turned into a fluffy white cat. As for Ursula, her deep bellowing voice, cackle, and transformation into an enormous triton wielding monster has made many people shudder with fright. It’s no wonder why so many people often dress up as Disney characters for it brings a fresh sense of nostalgia and a longing to return to a time of innocence and whimsicality.
If there’s one last part of Disney especially during the Disney Renaissance time period that is perhaps the number one reason why people enjoy these films the most is because of the themes and messages. Re-watching scenes and listening to the classic songs from a more mature and older perspective, I have realized that all long Disney was trying to teach me lessons that will carry me into my later years. From Beauty and the Beast embedding the theme of looking beyond appearances and focusing more on the personality, The Hunchback of Notre Dame touching on very mature themes such as racism and class-ism as well as a very suggestive scene that I still can’t believe that Disney got away with, Mulan raising the universal theme of never giving up and seeking to protect your family and your family honor, and finally Hercules shedding light on what it means to be a true hero. Now I’m not saying that other Disney films from the older generations and the Disney films from the new era don’t touch upon important themes, but for some reason I just feel that the movies produced during the years of 1989-2000 offered the most poignant lessons and messages that helped inspire and shape a whole generation of young adults who are now ready to take on the world and pursue their dreams and careers. So the next time you hear someone say that Disney is useless and is all corny jokes, sing- song, and overly happy, see if you can challenge them to listen to the words of the songs and try to find the hidden messages within the films that have made these well-known and popular hits so alluring in the first place. Now for those of you who think that I am trying to bash Frozen and tell people not to watch it, I’m not saying that the movie is a terrible movie and nor am I trying to shame people who genuinely enjoyed the film. If you truly enjoy the movie Frozen then that is totally fine I just sometimes feel that the Disney Renaissance films are not discussed as much amongst the younger generations and it is important that for the children who have not seen these classics to watch them so that they are exposed to the movies that helped pave the way for the newer movies including Frozen.