I watched a lot of Disney movies growing up. Cinderella, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Toy Story were just some of the movies I’ve seen during my formative years. I still watch Disney movies even if I’m already a grown ass woman because the new movies are still good, if not better. And now that I’m older, I wonder how different my experience is to the experiences of my younger cousins when we go and see the same Disney movie.
I remember I watched Toy Story with my mom and my aunt. As a kid, I liked it because it was the first time I watched a 3D movie. The story was exciting because it has adventure. And Woody and Buzz were hilarious. After the movie, my mom kept saying how she saw Tom Hanks instead of Woody. She enjoyed Toy Story because of Tom Hanks’ voice more than anything else. In that sense, her experience is different from mine.
In general, Disney movies follow a formula. We know everything’s going to end happily ever after. We know good will always triumph against evil. We know the princess will find her true love and that she would be able to harmonize with her prince because their hearts are singing the same song all this time. In short, nothing that’s based in reality.
Despite being unrealistic, I love the innocence and hopefulness that the movies try to impart—that against all odds, if you want to be someone or to do something, then no dream is too big or too impossible to achieve. I mean, if a rat can cook for his own restaurant, then there’s really no excuse for the rest of us.
One recurring Disney movie theme is how being different makes you great. I recently saw Frozen and the Snow Queen Elsa was made to feel like a monster because of her powers. Her father ordered her to hide it from everyone including her sister. But once her secret was revealed to the people of Arendell, she was like, “Fuck you all. I am leaving this dump and owning my inner Beyoncé.” And that’s when you start cheering for Elsa, when she showed her true self.
We also have Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame who literally looked like a monster. Like Elsa, he was isolated from everyone because he was physically different. But when he came out of Notre Dame to join the Festival of Fools, people were digging his weird monster vibe. Of course there were haters even in 1482 Paris. But the important thing is to have people like Esmeralda who will say, “You do you, Quasimodo. YOU DO YOU.” And that’s all you’ll ever need.
Lastly, we have Hercules. You would think because he’s a demigod, people would respect him but they’re just annoyed because he destroyed an entire agora with his super strength. Well guess what, fools, this super strength is what saves you from Hades’ monsters. Zero to hero, amiriiiiiite?
Another theme I love is an underdog story. I eat that shit up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. The feeling of being an underdog is universal because most of us have to start at the bottom. And it’s easier to inspire yourself if you know someone whose dreams came true by working hard and just keeping at it. Of course the working hard part is always shown in the form of a montage which I appreciate because actual hard work is boring and repetitive.
The Mighty Ducks is a great example of an underdog movie. Aside from being an underdog movie, I like that it involves assembling a motley crew of hockey players. I always love me a good assembling-a-motley-crew scene. It gives hope that someday I will also find my own motley crew.
Another underdog movie involving skating is Ice Princess. It’s not that great. But I like that it’s a story about a nerdy girl who discovered her dream a little later in life. On a related note, I also dream of having Michelle Trachtenberg’s hair.
But what we really anticipate and live for when watching these underdog movies is the final battle, the last challenge that the lead characters have to surmount. And they surmount it, without fail, for all of us.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we work or how much we believe in ourselves, we still need a stroke of luck to realize our dreams. Even Cinderella who worked her ass off for her stepmother and stepsisters almost didn’t go to the ball. And life can be cruel like that. Technically, Cinderella gave up on her dreams. But, as we all know, she luckily had a fairy godmother to turn the situation around.
Luck is not something we have control over. But we could take a cue from Cinderella when she sang, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”
Here’s to wishing all of us some bibbidi bobbidi boo.