*Dedicated to my amazing sister who reminded me that 2005’s War of the Worlds exists and kick started this whole blog. Love you to the moon and back.*

In December 1937, Walt Disney Animation Studios released the world’s first full length animated feature film- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. At the time every single frame of animation had to be drawn and coloured by hand, which for an 88 minute long film running at 24 frames per second meant that 126,720 individual frames had to be created. This effort paid off, with Snow White receiving a standing ovation at the premiere and Walt himself receiving an Honorary Academy Award for this significant innovation. Over the next 63 years, the company would grow into the multimedia behemoth that we recognise today, and would give us a further 38 hand-drawn feature films. Then in May of 2000, the company made another big leap with Dinosaur – their first ever Computer Generated film. The following decade would see a mixture of both CG and classically-made animated films, culminating in 2010 with a Tangled, which blended both of these techniques together. Not only is it one of the most expensive animated movies ever made, but it is also one of the most expensive movies ever made, period, with a budget of $260 million.

Tangled is loosely based on the story of Rapunzel, which was published as part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812, but dates as far back as the 11th century to a Persian tale known as Zal and Rudabeth. The story tells of a young prince who after finding a beautiful girl locked in a high tower, plots to aid in her escape. The girl was taken from her family at birth by a sorceress, who enters the tower each day by climbing the girls incredibly long hair. When the sorceress learns of the Prince’s plan, she blinds him and casts the girl into the woods after cutting off her hair. After years of searching, the Prince finally finds the princes, whose tears heal his eyes. It’s a tale fit for the brothers Grimm, but as with Snow White before it, the Walt Disney corporation made it into a ‘family-friendly’ affair. Tangled follows a thief who calls himself Flynn Rider as he steals a tiara from the town of Corona, and from his cohorts the Stabbington Brothers. In an effort to hide away, he climbs a mysterious tall tower where he meets the unknowingly lost princess Rapunzel (and her chameleon Pascal) who demands that he take her to see the floating lanterns in the town. Along the way they must avoid Rapunzel’s “mother” Gothel, the Stabbington brothers, and the Coronian militia (but more specifically a horse named Maximus). Some of these people are after Rapunzel’s magic healing hair, and some just hate Flynn. It’s possibly Disney at their best, taking a tale as old as time and making it new again, as well as turning it into a musical.

What makes Tangled a musical as opposed to a film with songs is that the songs used therein actively drive the plot and give insight into how characters are feeling. This is done to perfection by the amazing Alan Menken, who has already worked on some of the best Disney soundtracks there are. The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and Hercules were all composed by him, and the last of these just so happens to be a personal favourite of mine. I think that what makes Menken’s work so good is that he isn’t writing “just another song”, he is writing a Broadway Musical number. Perhaps two of the best songs in Tangled are Mother Knows Best and I Have A Dream which make use of the surrounding environments within the film. On top of this come the reprisals, which act as another verse to a previous song. For instance, the Reprise of Mother Knows Best takes it from a lighthearted, caring tune to one full of malice. This is unlike the using of a tune over and over again, which Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is a particular fan of.

The characters themselves are all incredibly likeable. Rapunzel is full of optimism, and though she has been raised to fear the outside world, she eventually comes to learn that she can take care of herself. Flynn Rider is almost the complete opposite, having had to raise himself, soon learning that perhaps life is better when it is shared with someone. Mother Gothel is delightfully entertaining, and is particularly interesting because she doesn’t start out as evil. Yes, she kidnaps a baby princess, but that is purely out of self-obsession in an attempt to stay young and it isn’t until around half way through that she becomes actively malicious. Then there are the ruffians and thugs who each have backstories and personalities and dreams, as well as Pascal and Maximus who each convey every thought without any words (which I think of as The Gromit Principle). Much like with an Edgar Wright production, there aren’t really any background characters, there are just characters.

It has now been a whole decade since Tangled was released and I find myself oddly reflective. At the time, my sister was 6 years old and I was 13. She was the primary demographic for this film and I found myself almost looking up to Flynn Rider. It was a film that the both of us and our parents could enjoy, and was the last of these before my brother came along 2 years later. It’s also one of the earliest memories I have relating to film advertisement campaigns. My sister had some of the toys (including the tower) and initially it was simply advertised as Rapunzel before being changed to Tangled several months before release. It did not get anywhere near the level of exposure that is given to a Disney film today and, in particular, Frozen. It is my belief that Tangled walked so that Frozen could run and I believe it to be the better film. Flynn and Maximus seem to be the basis for Kristoff and Sven, Rapunzel’s desire for freedom is mirrored by Anna’s and Let it Go seems to be designed specifically for Broadway right down to hiring a Broadway star as Elsa. I’ll spare you the “Frozen is fine and extremely over-rated” for today but I really think that Tangled could have been just as big.

Conversations of a sequel were brief as the producers felt that the story was over, but it did receive a 9 minute short set during The Big Wedding called Tangled Ever After. The short film debuted ahead of the 3-D re-release of Beauty & the Beast in 2012 and is a fun little adventure which focuses on Pascal and Maximus. In 2017, an animated series that would become known as Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure began airing on the Disney Channel preceded by an hour long film title Tangled: Before Ever After. Its animated in 2-D and brings back the original cast as well as providing some new songs, and I am now determined to sit down and watch the series itself. This would be easier if Disney+ had made the entire thing available, but I guess I’ll just have to continue to re-watch Tangled instead.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

The Good Dinosaur

You may recall in my review for Cars 2 that I mentioned how it was the first film in PIXAR’s repertoire that was considered a failure, in that it wasn’t a huge success at the Box Office. At the time, and for the several years that followed, it was seen as the worst film that the studio had ever produced – though I believe this reputation to be undeserved. The next few of PIXAR’s projects fared better, but in late 2015 they would release their first official Box Office failure- The Good Dinosaur. It’s important to note here just how much the studio usually earns in order to understand how abnormal The Good Dinosaur was. The two previous films, Inside Out and Monsters University, raked in $858 million and $743 million respectively, while their next film Finding Dory made just short of $1 billion. In contrast, The Good Dinosaur made around $332 million, which coupled with the roughly $350 million cost of production and marketing, put the studio at a loss- the first, and currently only, in their history. This is unfortunate and came as a shock to me while I was conducting my research, but in retrospect, I maybe shouldn’t have expected a huge profit to start with. This isn’t the film’s fault, and I’ll get to that, but first I feel we should go over the film itself.

We follow Arlo the dinosaur as he travels over harsh terrain in order to return home to his family. Along the way he encounters faces that are friendly, some that are not so friendly, and befriends a wild human that he names Spot. The main premise here is that the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 75 million years ago missed, which has allowed dinosaurs to evolve alongside the human race. Arlo, his brother, sister and parents are farmers who have adapted to using their bodies as farm equipment. Their sturdy heads plough the field, their colossal tails make for effective axes and their mouths are capable of holding enough water to spray an entire field of crops, but this accounts for 20 minutes of the 94 minute film. I think that it would have been really interesting to see a whole community of different dinosaurs with different jobs and perhaps how those skills develop over the centuries, but instead we get to witness Arlo travelling. It’s not a bad premise, and I am definitely fond of the relationship that Arlo develops with Spot, but I get this feeling that I’ve seen it all before. In essence, I think The Good Dinosaur’s biggest issue is that it lacks in new ideas. Early PIXAR films were known for their groundbreaking CGI, and all 15 of their previous entries are either a new premise or a new exploration of an old premise. This film feels like a reel of all the best parts from those films. You’ll find the “unexpected friends” trope in Toy Story, the “beautiful landscape” aspect in Brave and the “dead parent” trope in Finding Nemo. These are not bad aspects in and of themselves but this is the 16th PIXAR film in 20 years, so it needs something special of its own.

The plot also does not feel particularly coherent. There is a general through plot, with Arlo attempting to return home, but the events in this film don’t take place in any particular order. These scenes individually are rather fun, with the T-Rex ranchers being a particular highlight, but they all feel removed from each other. The T-Rex ranchers have an issue and Arlo helps. The hippie dinosaur wants to keep Spot for himself but that resolves itself. Even the storm-chasers, who appear twice, don’t seem to have a lasting impact on Arlo, but this is not the film’s fault. As I researched, I discovered a troubled production that I hadn’t been hyper-aware of at the time. According to reports, The Good Dinosaur was to be a story akin to Billy Elliot where Arlo is an outcast within his own community. This version of the story is more like what I would have expected to see, but by 2014 the entire plot had been essentially re-written to make “nature” the main antagonist because it was felt the other dinosaurs were becoming too unlikable. As someone who is very open about their thoughts on how “studio meddling” should be kept to a minimum, I find this kind of infuriating. The Good Dinosaur is enjoyable, but it’s clear to me that it was treated extremely poorly behind the scenes. It could have been great.

At the end of the day, the film itself is enjoyable. The CGI is the most gorgeous that PIXAR has ever done and is close to photo-realistic. You don’t have to pay a huge amount of attention to notice the water droplets falling from the leaves or the dew sitting on the rocks. This puts it apart from the usually cartoon-ish style of the studio and so is relatively groundbreaking for the industry. I’m also a fan of the characters, including Arlo himself. The T-Rex ranchers are rather charming and the storm-chasers are genuinely close to terrifying, but perhaps my favourite aspect is the overall message, At its core, The Good Dinosaur is about addressing your fears and using them to motivate you. Fear is just another emotion, and one that we don’t need to ignore, which is par for the course when it comes to PIXAR. They have always prided themselves on challenging children with their work and with not speaking down to them, which is something a feel certain areas of Hollywood could do with learning. The Good Dinosaur may be an average film but it’s still worth checking out for yourself.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Inside Out

Children can be highly emotional at times. When you’re small, it seems to magnify the size of everything, be it physical objects or the issues of life. Tripping over your feet as an adult, though it may seem embarrassing, doesn’t compare to other issues like making sure you have enough money to pay the bills. In essence, you need to have lived long enough have to garnered enough life experience to know what issues will affect you in the long-term. It’s important that we, as adults, take that into consideration whenever we are dealing with issues that children may be having. It’s also important that when we have discussions surrounding the welfare of children, that those same children are included, and I can’t think of a better film to deliver on that premise than Inside Out.

We follow the 5 main emotions of 11 year old Riley Andersen as they struggle to cope with her family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. These emotions- Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust- are an over simplification of the vast spectrum of emotions experience by humanity (and that’s okay). This isn’t some kind of documentary about psychology, it’s a children’s movie with easily digestible themes. Indeed, it wouldn’t be long before the core cast of Inside Out were being used in classrooms and therapists offices as a way of simplifying the discussion so that younger minds could digest information more easily. In this regard, 5 turns out to be an ideal number of emotions as it stops the conversation from being too weighed down but it also assists with the narrative of the film. After all, Inside Out is first and foremost a children’s film designed to entertain. It only takes 5 emotions for this story to work and they get a gradual introduction over the first 10 minutes. We are also introduced to their human – Riley – and her parents though it is through the eyes of the emotions. Riley is a character but she is also a vessel through which the narrative takes place.

This narrative is set into motion when Joy and Sadness find themselves accidentally transferred from the main hub of Riley’s mind to her long-term memory storage. This leaves Riley with only Fear, Anger, and Disgust which some may see as “negative” emotions. As a result, Riley becomes more and more depressed until the remaining emotions are unable to make her feel anything at all. As someone who has been coping with depression for quite some time, I recognise how reductive this depiction is, however it also really resonated with me. I felt like the crew who worked on this project understood, at least on a surface level, how depression could feel and that they delivered it with a certain level of respect. I’ve been finding it difficult to write this review due to some unforeseen circumstances in my personal life this week, but also because this film hits me so deeply that I find it difficult to watch, let alone write about. The word “triggered” has practically been ruined by people who want to use it to belittle people they deem as lesser than them, but its original meaning still stands. Inside Out, on a particularly bad day, could genuinely trigger a depressive or anxious episode in me. This is not a criticism, in fact it’s far from it. If a film is causing you to have feelings, then that film is doing its job effectively.

This is the 15th feature film from PIXAR Studios and it’s becoming clear that their animation has developed a certain style. The unique worlds that they create have often lacked in humans but the people here have a similar look to those in a previous film- Brave– and to those in the films that would follow. In the same way that Dreamworks characters have very distinctive eyebrows, the PIXAR characters have very expressive eyes. They also have regular human proportions which, I suppose, helps it to feel less like a cartoon and more like an extension of our own world. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does feel like it lacks the creativity of earlier PIXAR projects. They were once pushing the boundaries of what computer animation was capable of, but now, while still kings in their field, it feels like they’ve settled for consistency. There was a two year gap between Monsters University and Inside Out and we’ve never had to wait that long again. There were mere months between Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur and then a year between each following release (2017 got 2!). I know that this is due to them refining their process and hiring more staff which means that they can work on several projects at once, but this is the last of PIXAR’s films that I’ve re-watched. Inside Out is a wonderful film and a heck of a conversation starter, but it might be the last time that a PIXAR film felt like PIXAR.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Monsters University

I have always had a fascination with stories. As I child I would read constantly, and as I grew older I became an avid viewer of movies, both of which rely on a good story despite being two different mediums. I think this fascination may be at the heart of why I aim to get as much out of a film as I can, be it about the characters or the production process. When it comes to the subject of character, sequels can be an excellent method of development, and the same can be said of prequels. By 2013, PIXAR Studios had provided us with 3 sequels, with 2 for Toy Story and 1 for Cars, on top of their 10 original projects, but there wasn’t a prequel to be seen. Their first, and to date only, prequel would be a spin-off of the highly popular 2001 film Monsters Inc entitled Monsters University, or Monsters Uni for short. There had been, and continue to be, many calls for a direct sequel to Monsters Inc so a prequel was certainly an unexpected move, but it may have been, at least in my opinion, the better choice.

We follow the previous film’s protagonists Mike Wasowski and James “Sully” Sullivan through university as they compete in the Scare Games and find a lifelong friendship along the way. Perhaps the greatest hurdle of any prequel is that it must inevitably end in a way that directs us into the original film. Because this precedes Monsters Inc, we know that Mike and Sully will become lifelong roommates working for the titular company, so we know that their rivalry in Monsters Uni will be short-lived. It just so happens that I am a firm believer that the journey is equally important, if not more so, than the final destination, and this is quite the journey. Mike is a bit of a loner and Sully is a local celebrity, being the son of a scarer, so putting them both in the Scare Programme provides enough friction to carry the entire film. But an incident leads to them both being expelled from the programme, and from here they join a lackluster group of monsters in the Oozma Kampa fraternity so that they can win the Scare Games and be re-instated, so the stakes are high. All PIXAR films have an overarching lesson to them and there is no attempt to hide that Monsters Uni is all about teamwork, in relation to each other as well as the fraternity. Each of the monsters in Oozma Kampa brings something different to the table, but, like Mike, they have been outcast for not being scary enough. Unlike Mike, they aren’t in in for personal gain and are just happy to finally be included, which makes rooting for them easy. They are hard not to care about.

There are only a handful of main characters, but since this is set on a college campus, the amount of background characters is innumerable. As I have made my way through the PIXAR library, I have noticed certain improvements due to the progress of time and of technology. We are now a long way from the clone children of Toy Story, with each background character being 100% unique. It had been this way for quite some time, in fact the main selling point of Cars 2 seemed to be how many unique, merchandise-able characters were in it, but Monsters Uni is where that progress really stands out to me. There are monsters with slime, scales, fur, shells, multiple heads and backpacks all in one frame which is a level of skill and computer processing power that I find it hard to comprehend, but here it is nonetheless. There is an in-universe trading card game which features different scarers from across the ages and I am gutted that they didn’t make it into a genuine set, because it would have been an astounding demonstration of the artwork present in this film. It also would have likely raked in more cash for Disney, so I feel like they may have dropped the ball on that one. A special shout-out goes to the people who designed and rendered the buildings because I can only imagine that real-life buildings are difficult enough. Building this reality in which the characters exist is truly commendable.

As always, the score is magnificent. While some sequels and prequels might rely on previously established musical motifs, Monsters Uni has a almost wholly original score. I say almost because a couple of those old motifs do still manage to sneak in there, most noticeably in the track Field Trip, but it is a rarity. Once again we are being treated to the compositions of Randy Newman in what is his 7th collaboration with PIXAR after the Toy Story trilogy, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, and Cars. His work is very distinct and if you dwell on that for too long, it can become rather distracting, but I still rather enjoy his music. The score here can be light and airy but also intense and urgent, perhaps more so than in any of his previous films, but I wouldn’t have been upset if they had brought in somebody else. That’s the thing about change- it can be for the better. Nobody expecting a prequel for Monsters Inc because they were, and some still are, more interested in a direct sequel, but this is what we got. It doesn’t rely on the original film in any aspect and introduces us to new, likeable characters and interesting settings. For those who have watched Monsters Inc there are one or two subtle nods and expectation subversions but nothing that are important to the story.

The way I see it, Monsters University is further background for a story that I already love. It has the added benefit of being a well-written and, at times, emotional piece. If you are of the opinion that all sequels, prequels and spin-offs are empty cash-grabs then I implore you to watch this film and reconsider.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer


2012 was quite a momentous year. Not only was the world supposedly due to end, but London was to host the Olympic Games. This meant that the eyes of the world would be fixed on the United Kingdom which, for the time being, includes Scotland. What better time to release an animated children’s film that demonstrates the beauty and the culture of the Highlands? It’s worth noting that the release of Brave happening around the time of the 2012 Olympics is pure coincidence, with work on the film beginning in 2008 before a change of director in 2010 delayed the project. What isn’t a coincidence is the Scottish Government’s use of this film to promote tourism in a country that hadn’t been portrayed by previous films in the best light. Perhaps two of the biggest titles were the historically inaccurate Braveheart and the wonderfully made Trainspotting, which portray Scotland as a violent nest of drugs, crime, and alcohol. At the time, The Guardian reported that VisitScotland, which is responsible for Scotland’s tourist trade, set aside £7 million to advertise itself alongside Brave in the hopes that it would increase tourism by roughly £140 million. Sadly, I cannot find any evidence that this was the case or even that tourism increased at all, but Brave itself proved to be much more successful.

We follow princess Merida as she defies the ancient custom of arranged marriage to set out on her own path. In order to change the mind of her disapproving mother, she procures a spell from a witch that turns her, unexpectedly, into a bear. What follows is a tale of magic, intrigue and familial bonding. This is PIXAR Studios second story to feature a princess, after A Bug’s Life, and they’ve come out of the gate swinging. There is a long history of Disney Princesses, though not all of them belong to the Disney Princess brand (I’m not getting into that here), and that history is filled to the brim with rushed love. Of the 14 animated princesses that Disney had provided at the time, not one of them remained single, which makes Merida’s story a truly historic milestone for the company. Whilst the Walt Disney Company is only responsible for the distribution of Brave, they officially made Merida a part of the Disney Princess brand in 2013. Brave chose to be about a love just as powerful- the love of family- and it is abundantly clear from the very first scene where, on young Merida’s birthday, her father gifts her a bow and arrow. While her mother clearly isn’t pleased with this gift, she allows Merida to play with it anyway and allows her to keep it in the following years. These three characters have a very natural chemistry and it makes for a wonderful viewing experience, even when they’re apart. This is even more apparent when Merida’s mother is turned into a bear and can no longer use words to communicate. The use of body language to convey emotion is something that PIXAR has always been good at, but it has never taken centre stage like this. I’m very much reminded of Aardman Animations’ Wallace and Gromit and I can think of no higher praise for a movie than that.

At this point, we are 13 films into the PIXAR catalogue and I once again find myself praising the visuals. I know that consistently reading about how beautiful these movies are must seem repetitive, but this is my review and these films just keep getting prettier. As with Up, the production team took a trip abroad to make sure they were representing the landscapes as best as they could, and it really pays off. Whether its the thistles, the architecture or the clothing. Brave looks and feels like Scotland. Not only that, but PIXAR made sure to hire Scottish actors and a Scottish composer in order to make the film as authentic as possible. Again, it pays off, and I find that I occasionally have to remind myself that this is an American film. I think the final aspect of Brave‘s success is how dark it is in tone. By 2012, there seemed to be a move away from dark elements in children’s films towards something lighter. Gone were the horrors of Don Bluth Animations and even the early Walt Disney cartoons. While films like The Land Before Time and The Dark Cauldron had supposedly scarred a generation, films like Frozen aimed to be a sort of “fluff piece.” Perhaps adults wanted to protect the innocence of their children for a little while longer or perhaps these happier films were easier to market. I do not know. What I do know is that Mor’du is perhaps the scariest character that PIXAR has ever given us, and perhaps the scariest in children’s films full stop. I think it’s good to challenge children like this, and to show that they are no less capable of handling fear than an adult. Judging by Brave‘s positive reception from both critics and audiences, it would seem like there is some foundation for this statement. The longest lasting impact from this film seems to have been Merida, which is a shame because there is so much more to Brave than just the main character.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Toy Story 3

I try to remain as unbiased as I can in my writing and only occasionally do I believe I’ve faltered. This is one of those occasions because Toy Story 3 is very special to me. Being born in 1997, I have grown up alongside PIXAR and, as a child, Toy Story was my go-to film. Even as I grew older and entered my teenage years I found myself returning to it and its sequel time after time whenever I was in need of some comfort. Toy Story 3 marked the first time that something I had been emotionally invested in since childhood came to an end. Wow, what an end it was.

We follow Buzz, Woody and the gang as they are accidentally donated to Sunnyside Daycare, mere days before Andy is due to leave for college. Woody, determined to remain by his side, attempts to return home but it picked up by a girl named Bonnie whose toys inform Woody that Sunnyside is not all sunshine and rainbows. He must choose between abandoning his friends for Andy or saving them. This is the darkest of PIXAR’s films so far in both colour and theme. The entirety of the third act takes place at night, as do the flashbacks, not to mention the time spent in bags and boxes. That is the haunting irony of Sunnyside Daycare, which should mark a delightfully pleasant retirement for Andy’s toys but is more like a war zone. Instead of remaining in the Butterfly Room with the 6 year olds, they are taken to the Caterpillar room where the 4 year olds dwell. Their first playtime in years ends with them covered in paint and drool in a blatant disregard for the age suggestions on their original packaging. I was never like these children, always taking great care with my toys, so to see them treated this way is heartbreaking. It may also be the most accurate depiction of children in children’s media.

It may seem like the children will end up as the antagonists but no, it’s much much worse. Lotso-Huggin’ Bear is a vindictive plush toy who was “abandoned” by his owner and now rules over Sunnyside with an iron fist. As Ken Doll so astutely observes, Lotso has transformed Sunnyside into a pyramid and placed himself on top. As a result, Toy Story 3 sort of becomes about overthrowing an unjust system of government which, after Wall-E, leads me to wonder how the people at PIXAR feel about The System. Of course, this is a children’s film, so Lotso eventually gets his comeuppance but not before the most gut-wrenching betrayal I’ve ever witnessed. The films climax takes place at a landfill where it seems as if our heroes are headed for certain destruction via a massive furnace. Lotso has the chance to save them but instead chooses to save only himself, leaving everybody else to continue their final journey. Inevitably they do not perish but we still have to sit through a scene where they embrace their own mortality and their end. This may be the darkest thing that PIXAR has ever done and I commend them for it. As a company, they have never spoken down to children and, in this moment, they are treating the children as adults. It shows a real sign of respect on PIXARs behalf for their young audience.

As the final film in a trilogy, Toy Story 3 wraps up the story perfectly. I’ve spoken before about the importance of payoff and how rewarding it is for longtime fans of a franchise. It’s especially prevalent in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and in moments of Avengers Endgame but Toy Story 3 might outshine both of them. On a surface level, we get to witness the end of these characters’ arcs but it runs deeper than that. Parts of the film like Buzz’s escape from the Caterpillar Room and the entire opening sequence directly parallel moments in previous instalments. However the best homage to Toy Storys past lie in the score. Almost every single track from the first 2 films make one final return here. There’s Soldiers Mission, Woody’s Roundup and the most heart-wrenching of all You’ve Got a Friend in Me. The score can make or break a film. It’s there to illicit certain reactions and emotions but if it doesn’t do that, the film doesn’t come across the same. The music is designed to emotionally manipulate you- that’s its job- and Toy Story 3 uses that to its advantage. I must have seen this movie at least once a year since it was released and I have wept every single time. Even re-watching it for this piece, knowing that the story continues, I can’t seem to help myself. Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion and it will win me over every single time. The difference in detail between the CGI of this film and the CGI of the original Toy Story is enough to blow me away.

My generation are the last to witness this franchise upon release. Current and future generations are able to sit through the entire thing in the space of an afternoon. They won’t be impacted in exactly the same way but I wonder if they will be impacted in some way. That’s the thing about PIXAR- their pieces are timeless. They aren’t designed to appeal to one ausdience in the here and now, but to every audience of every age. I know that children will watch Toy Story 3 in the years to come and that they might consider it just another PIXAR film but it will continue to stick with me

To Infinity and Beyond…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Disney Average

The preservation of our history is important. This includes the history of art and of our pop culture, a large amount of which has been provided or bought by the Walt Disney Company since 1923. My feelings on the House of Mouse are complicated, given that while I grew up with their movies, they are a multi-billion dollar corporation focused on everything that exists. This has really come to a head with the release of their subscription service Disney+ which I was adamant should not be allowed to succeed. As was perhaps inevitable, my family have signed up, and so I can reap the benefits without paying a single penny, which is ideal. So the question remains- being one of its biggest naysayers, what do I make of it?

Without question, the biggest advantage of Disney+ is the access to an extensive catalogue of Disney properties. There are classic shows like Ducktales, and Recess, classic films like Hercules, and The Love Bug, as well as newer hits like Moana and Frozen. There really is something for everyone. There is also a vast amount of cartoon shorts dating back to before 1928’s Steamboat Willie but, ironically, this same catalogue may be one of the service’s greatest flaws. Other subscription services like Netflix and NowTV have a massive selection of ever rotating shows and films from a variety of different companies. Not only do both these of mediums go back decades, but they are coming out with new content at a rapid pace, meaning there is no shortage of things to stream. Disney does not have this advantage. While it is true that The Mouse has an extensive vault, it is not infinite. This is most likely why there are still properties that haven’t yet been uploaded, and I suspect that we may never see a day when 100% of their creations are available. Even with the rate that Disney is swallowing up companies, they will not be able to produce content at the rate it is being consumed.

With the release of Disney+ comes the death of the Disney Vault. This was how the company invented scarcity for their films in the home media market. Once released, a film would be held “in the vault” and re-released on video every 10 years, which was your only opportunity to purchase it. As time progressed, “The Vault” became a generic term for the hypothetical place where Disney stored their past projects, both in film and television. Executive Chairman and former CEO Bob Iger has said [in THIS Variety article] that “at some point fairly soon after launch, it will have the entire Disney motion picture library” which completely eradicates the concept of The Vault, although I couldn’t find a specific statement on their television shows. If we take this statement about Disney+ having everything at face value, then the service for all intents and purposes, will become The New Disney Vault. However I don’t foresee us being given access to 100% of Disney’s content, and even if we do I doubt it will be in its original form. It’s no secret that several films have already been altered, with the most notable being 1984’s Splash! A brief moment of posterior nudity is replaced by some really poor CGI hair extension. Supposedly this was done to make it more child-friendly, so I expect we will see more of these alterations in the months to come.

The true embodiment of Disney+ not being full to the brim with films is the overwhelming lack of Song of the South. This film, released in 1946, focuses on the stories of Brere Rabbit as told by a character called Uncle Remus. It’s one of the earliest instances of a film blending live-action with hand-drawn animation and, as a result, is a semi-important piece of cinematic history. It also features the Academy Award winning song Zip-a-dee-doo-dah which remains part of the societal lexicon to this day. While it has seen cinematic re-releases for various anniversaries in subsequent years, with the last being in 1986, and has screened on television as recently as as 2006, there is still no DVD release. Non-American countries can experience the film on VHS, should you be able to find a copy, but America has never seen any kind of Home Video release. When questioned about the possibility of a release over the years, former CEOs Micheal Eisner and Bob Iger have stated that we may still see Song of the South on DVD, with Iger clarifying [in THIS Deadline article] that we would never see it on Disney+ due to “out-dated cultural depictions” that are “inappropriate in today’s world”. I firmly believe that not releasing Song of the South is a mistake, and that hiding from the mistakes of the past in no substitute to learning from them. This is especially true when you consider that 1941’s Dumbo is still available on the service…Jim Crow and all.

The secondary selling point of Disney+ is its original content which includes The World According to Jeff Goldblum and The Mandalorian. In my opinion, The Mandalorian is one of the best pieces of Star Wars media we have received in recent years, and making it the flagship series of the subscription service is one of the best decisions Disney has ever made. Releasing episodes on a weekly basis means that if people want to keep up to date with the adventures of Baby Yoda, it can’t just be done via the 7-day free trial. That 7-days, by the way, is well below the 30-day free trial of other subscription sites and whilst I understand why they would do this, it seems a bit rude. The Mandalorian has now finished airing its first series, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they continue to keep this weekly routine for the rest of their shows. Long story short, unless you’re willing to pirate this new content, you will be required to have a Disney+ subscription in order to prevent falling behind. This is particularly true in regards to their Marvel shows which will not only tie into the larger MCU, but will be essential in understanding its future films. I hate this. It sickens me. The MCU has always been largely accessible, and much of the surrounding community finds a real sense of belonging in this fictional universe, as well as fellow fans. Hiding pivotal plot points behind a continual paywall is some pure capitalist garbage which will end up alienating a lot of people. I’m all for cross media story-telling, Star Wars has been doing it for years, but that media has to be easily accessible. If you need to buy a Star Wars book, comic or audio-story it’s a one-off payment and adds to the lore of the universe instead of defining the main franchise plotline. Disney has made some good decisions with their subscription service but this decision is their worst.

At the end of the day, Disney+ is fine, but it really lacks in some areas. There is a good enough range of media available for the time being but it isn’t nearly self-sustainable enough and certainly isn’t anywhere near the level we were told to expect [To see just how incomplete their library is, check out THIS comprehensive list from What’s on Disney+]. A perfect version of this service is not just one that contains 100% of Disney’s un-edited content, but also one that is free. Art should be able to be viewed by anyone and it is this simple belief that would appear to be why many art galleries are free. If this is true of paintings and sculptures then surely it should also be true of film? Unfortunately, it isn’t quite this simple, owing to a number of things like copyright and trademark laws. Had Disney chosen only to Copyright their material it would have eventually entered the public domain but because they trademark everything, this will never happen. Regardless of this, Disney has enough money that they can afford to make the service free. Between ticket sales for their movies and parks as well as profits from merchandising, the House of Mouse could take some time off and still make a substantial income. An ideal system might be one where they release a movie to theatres, sell the DVD and then wait 5 years before uploading it to The New Vault. I can’t say that I recommend Disney+, but if if it’s to be shared by your family then it may be worth it.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer


It has now been over a decade since PIXAR’s Up hit our screens and I believe that it remains one of their finest achievements. Despite being their 10th feature length film it is only the second to have solely human protagonists, with the first being The Incredibles in 2004. Whilst the latter is an exciting superhero movie for the ages, the former plays out as more of a “slice of life” piece. It manages to accomplish this while remaining emotional throughout, with the usual of comedy that we have come to expect from PIXAR. It is still remembered as one of the most moving films of the 2000s and upon re-watching, it isn’t hard to see why.

We follow elderly widow Carl Fredrickson as he attempts to make good on a promise to his late wife that they will one day make it to Paradise Falls, which he accomplishes via floating house. What should be a relatively easy trip is complicated by the stowaway Wilderness Explorer Scout Russel, and later his desire to protect a rare bird that he has dubbed Kevin from famous explorer Charles Muntz. At an hour and a half long, this is the shortest of PIXAR’s films so far, but it manages to pack one of the biggest punches. The opening introduces us to Carl and his eventual wife Ellie as children, allowing us to watch their relationship grow through a wordless montage set to Micheal Giachinno’s haunting score. The sequence lasts just over 5 minutes, and once we finally arrive in the present day we understand and feel Carl’s pain. He has become a curmudgeon, refusing to sell his house to contractors, and we the audience don’t want him to either. This house is filled with memories and he doesn’t want to let go. All this is jeopardised when he unwittingly hits one of the construction workers over the head with his walking stick, leading to a court ruling that he be moved to a retirement home. This is only the third time that PIXAR has shown blood on-screen, after Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, which helps add to the weight of his actions.

Carl may be the main focus, but there is as much time dedicated to Russel. As a former Scout myself, Russel hits me a little differently. I see in him so many of my fondest memories and so many other scouts that I have known. Though I’m not going back, it is children like Russel who convinced me to remain a Scout Leader for as long as I did. Watching Russel grow as a person is one of the true highlights of Up, especially when you take his backstory into consideration. He never really sees his father and seems determined to earn his Assisting the Elderly badge because his father promised to be at the ceremony. This gives Carl the child he was never able to have and Russel the father figure that he’s always wanted, leading to a beautiful dynamic. I could discuss the rare bird Kevin, but she is over-shadowed by the true animal star- Dug. Dug is a golden retriever, owned by Muntz, who is seen as a fool by his canine peers. He stumbles upon our trio accidentally and soon decides that they are better masters for him. But upon everyone’s arrival at Muntz’s airship, he is placed in ‘The Cone of Shame’ for losing the bird, Kevin. He soon breaks free, and becomes his own dog so Dug’s story is literally that of an underdog.

The case of Charles Muntz is an interesting one. We are introduced to him as an elderly man, Carl’s hero, and a possible new friend. But once he discovers that they have been hiding Kevin, his demeanour changes rapidly. He becomes determined to destroy our heroes and take Kevin back to America as his trophy. This “surprise villain” trope is one that we have now become accustomed to, and even by 2009 the general public seemed to be tiring of it. I, for one, think it is an excellent trope if done well, and it is definitely done well here. PIXAR had used this trope before, and have gone on to use it several times, but Charles Muntz remains one of the best, and most terrifying examples.

After 23 years and 10 feature films, it’s evident just how fast computer animation was advancing. The scenery is more stunning than ever, with a research team embarking on a trip to South America in order to ensure they had the correct plants for the area. Not a single leaf is left un-animated, while the physics of the water and the lightning are still astounding. Perhaps Up‘s biggest achievement remains the 20,622 individually animated balloons that it takes to lift Carls house off the ground. There is an impressive variety of vibrant colours and the light shining through them leaves the most stunning of reflections. It remains one of the most beautiful feats of animation I have ever seen, even after all this time. These visuals are matched perfectly by the score. This is Giachinno’s third time working for PIXAR but his first without director Brad Bird, and he absolutely nails it. There are moments of whimsy and wonderment alongside dread and despair, making for a stunning experience. Up may tackle with issues like letting go of your past and meeting your heroes, but I think that one word describes it best: Stunning.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer


40 minutes. That’s how long it takes for Wall-E to introduce us to any people. 40 whole minutes. The film is only an hour and a half long, yet it waits until nearly halfway into its runtime before properly diving into the plot. For comparison, you could watch an entire episode of Doctor Who in that amount of time. The most impressive aspect of all that is that not a second of it is wasted, and once the plot does finally get going, it is thoroughly enjoyable and emotional.

We follow Wall-E, a waste disposal robot, as he leaves a long-since abandoned Earth in pursuit of his new love EVE; a sleek robot seeking signs that humanity can return home from the stars. It’s a fairly simple plot- an environmental message disguised as a love story between two robots. Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth class) has been alone, for centuries, and developed an inquisitive personality. All he really wants is someone to share his wonder and excitement with and it finally arrives with EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). She has come to Earth in search of organic life to certify that the planet has become habitable in the 705 years that humanity has spent on their space cruise-liners. Upon finding a solitary sapling, she initiates low power mode, during which time Wall-E keeps her safe from the harsh environment. He has no knowledge of what has happened to her but continues to protect her in a demonstration of pure love and kindness. With a vocabulary of only several words between them, they must rely on these words and actions to show how much they care, providing us with some of the most adorable chemistry I’ve ever witnessed. I genuinely could have spent the entire hour and a half just being on Earth with these two but, alas, EVE is retrieved by a spaceship and returned to the human colony with her new friend stowing away. As Wall-E clings to the ships outside, we get to experience the vast beauty of space through his eyes. Again, I could have spent much longer here, just soaking in the infinite majesty of the universe.

So here we are, half way through the movie and the real meat of the plot can begin. In the 705 years since leaving Earth, the subsequent generations of human have grown obese, focused on nothing but the holo-screens in front of them. Their ship (The Axiom), everything on it and, indeed, everything on Earth, was manufactured and owned by the company BNL (Buy ‘N’ Large) whose sole aim seems to have been making life as easy as possible. Having ruined the planet with their consistent need for consumerism, humans have now in effect ruined themselves the exact same way. They were so focused on themselves that they forgot to take care of the people around them and their home. If only they hadn’t allowed one single company to own absolutely everything.

With the plant suddenly missing, EVE presumes that Wall-E has taken it, which is a bit harsh, and demands that he return to Earth immediately. It is here, with half an hour to go, that we learn the shocking truth about the Axioms auto-pilot Otto. He is the one attempting to destroy any evidence of the plant, hiding it from the Captain himself, in an attempt to stop humanity from ever returning home. You may be getting some 2001: A Space Odessy vibes but, this time, Otto is simply following protocol. He long ago recieved a message from the prsident of BNL (and subsequently Earth) that the planet was a lost cause and that the safest thing for humanity to do was live amongst the stars. As a result, Wall-E doesn’t have a villain per se. The true fight, so we’re shown, is between us and capitalism.

With a wonderful story like this, it only makes sense that the score and sound design should match, and it proves to be spectacular. Whether it be the low hum of EVE hovering or the sound of rocks as they fall through Wall-Es caterpillar tracks, these sounds feel real. Indeed, the film makes no secret that everything here could actually come to pass, down to the use of live action footage. the blend of computer animation and live action, at least in a computer animated film, is rare. Which is a shame, because it leads to a unique viewing experience. It adds to the reality of the film’s message- that this future is all too tangible. On top of that is the somewhat ethereal score which, whilst adding a sense of whimsy, adds a sense of dread. It’s no wonder that Wall-E won the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture and no surprise that it is remembered so fondly. If only people would remember its message too.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer


Everybody seems to be in agreement that PIXAR has a back catalogue that is pretty near perfect. It wouldn’t be until Cars 2 in 2011 that they would finally provide something that the general public would deem Not Up To Standard, but that’s 4 films from here. So where, I ask you, is the love for Ratatouille? Why was it held in such high esteem at the time but seems now to get much less recognition than the likes of Toy Story or Wall-E? I’m not sure I can’t answer that question, but I’m taking a look at it regardless.

We follow Remy the rat as he is separated from his family, and finds himself the assistant of a Parisian garbage boy as he becomes a successful chef. Once again, we find ourselves at the mercy of director Brad Bird and, once again, he delivers a solid film. Ratatouille doesn’t shy away from society’s views on rats, including it as a message throughout the film, including a rat killing store featuring dead rats. On top of this, the film opens with Remy being shot at, which immediately puts him on the back foot. Remy is constantly fighting to be appreciated, first by his father, then by his new human friend Alfredo Linguine, and eventually by the inhabitants of Paris. He is already considered strange in his family because he has a heightened sense of smell and taste, meaning he actually has an appreciation for the food he eats instead of the trash consumed by the rest of his family. It’s a unique premise, and one that isolates our tiny protagonist immediately, but this doesn’t mean that when he finally meets Linguine that he stops being alone. Linguine has his own issues to work through, and because he can’t speak rat, can’t fully appreciate what Remy is going through. For those moments when Remy is truly alone, he is joined by a figment of his imagination in the form of Paris’ (now deceased) top chef Auguste Gusteau. Not only does this stop Remy from having to talk to himself, but it also provides a fun dynamic and entertaining character.

Each character is unique, regardless of how large their role in the plot is. Linguine may be our main human character, but his eventual love interest Colette is just as, if not more, memorable. She is an extraordinarily passionate cook and one of the toughest women you’ll ever see on screen. Then there’s the kitchen staff including Horst, who supposedly once killed a man with his thumb, and Harousse, who is banned from several casinos in Las Vegas. Our main villain is Chef Skinner, who is now in charge of Gusteau’s restaurant and cares only about profit. He is the only person to figure out that Linguine is in cahoots with Remy but, since he can prove it, becomes increasingly frustrated. On top of this, he is vertically challenged and voiced by the wonderful Ian Holmes. Usually PIXAR villains are downright evil, but Skinner is just a man seeking money. As a result, I think most of the joy from watching him comes down to some schadenfreude. We take just a hint of joy from watching someone else suffer, especially if that person is seen as a villain, but on the other hand he is a capitalist so maybe he deserves it. My favourite character ends up being one of the “lesser” roles and Paris’ biggest food critic- Anton Ego. Gustaeu’s belief, and indeed the message of Ratatouille, is that anyone can cook. Ego wholeheartedly disagrees. He has this strong presence every time he enters the frame, and you couldn’t have found someone better to portray that than the legendary Peter O’Toole. Of course, in the end, he learns that anyone can cook, but only a few can be truly great. This leads to a beautifully delivered monologue about criticism, and the people who choose that as a career. It really drove home to me the very reason that Shakesqueer exists because while criticism is easy, it takes effort to focus on the positives.

Ratatouille may hold the designation of a children’s film but it really doesn’t treat itself like one. Not only does it have some rather dark moments, but it’s shot like a proper blockbuster movie. The cinematography is something truly special, and that is apparent from the very first frame. We open on a slow pan towards a cottage whilst the film’s title fades onto the screen. That is a shot that could have come straight from a period piece, but it’s here in Ratatouille. It doesn’t stop there, with the film making the most of its Parisian setting. The lighting and atmosphere throughout are perfect, demonstrating exactly why Brad Bird is one of the finest directors working today. That cinematography pairs wonderfully with the score, provided by Michael Giacchino who is also one of the best in his field. It has a very quaint and upbeat sound to it that I can only describe as “undoubtedly French”. My favourite aspect lies with how the score seems to scamper along as the rats do. It scurries, but it’s also mellow when it needs to be and is fanciful at times too. Perhaps all of this is why Ratatouille won the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture in 2008, the 3rd PIXAR film to do so after Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. As the 8th film since the company’s inception, Ratatouille was proof that PIXAR was unstoppable. They were only getting bigger and better with every release. On its own, this is a unique experience with some highly entertaining characters. There may be moments when you forget this is “for children” because it is a wonderful reminder that we don’t need to speak down to them. To everyone involved…

Thank You.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer