As we get ready for our Ultimate Disney Challenge, we want to talk about our favorites, which might change as we go through these movies. We’ll reevaluate every once in a while to see if these opinions still hold true.
Sam: Do the opening credits of The Haunted Mansion count? If so, that; if not, then The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I love that it points out the flaws of organized religion while simultaneously exploring the beauty of it. It’s a bold, powerful film that takes on prejudice, racism, xenophobia, and ableism to greater effect than any other Disney film. And the music! It gives me chills!
Zach: I. AM. THE LION KING. Honestly, this is my favorite film of ALL TIME (yes, even beyond the Disney brand). The Lion King is one of those very rare films wherein the deepest truth (call it Dharma, Dasein, The Ultimate, The Ideal, whatever you prefer) seems to flicker between the frames. Its scope is IMMENSE (and impossible to encapsulate with justice); in a modest attempt to describe why this film is so great, I can only say that “The Lion King is not a film about life, but rather, a masterpiece of life.”
Least Favorite Film:
Sam: Unpopular opinion, but Atlantis: The Lost Empire. My problem with it is that it had sooooo much potential — a fantastic premise, a great cast of characters, an amazing steampunk world — but it falls flat because a) Milo is an uninspiring protagonist, and b) because of the way it treats Atlantis itself. The world of Atlantis doesn’t have the same depth of characterization that the rest of the movie does, which makes for a disappointing finale. However, I will say that Vinnie is one of the greatest Disney characters ever.
Zach: Meet the Robinsons; holy shit, where do I even begin? How about, “nothing makes sense in this film, and everyone is crazy?” Honestly, this has got to be the most insane thing Disney has spawned into the looney pond; its plot is an emaciated spider with 10,000 legs that have no coordination whatsoever. Everything is loud, random, and senseless, and I completely hate this movie. Believe me, it has its defenders (who continue to challenge me to be a better person), but I am sincerely dreading to cross paths with this 2007 fiasco once again.
Sam: HOW DO I CHOOSE? Um, Esmeralda, I think. She is one of the few Disney heroines who doesn’t come from money, so she has to work hard for everything. She has learned to survive in a society that thinks her very existence is a crime. She knows she isn’t in a fairytale and that there’s no “happily ever after,” but she believes in “someday” (cue cheesy credits song. But actually, if you haven’t heard it, the version that’s in the stage musical is STUNNING.)
Zach: Yep, it’s Simba. Aside from my love of The Lion King as a whole, I think I have an additional bias in that I’ve personally identified with Simba in my own life (when it comes to self-reflection, disappointment, atonement, and forgiveness). Simba’s struggle to discover and accept his identity (and forgive himself for his “mistakes”…which I KNOW TECHNICALLY didn’t happen because he didn’t “kill Mufasa” but oh well…) are played out at a perfect, highly relatable pace. Moreover, Simba’s act of listening and accepting the means to forgive (which are brilliantly explained by RAFIKI!!!) shows a rare, very powerful arc in character that’s not often seen in (Disney) films.
Sam: I love Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove. She’s hilarious, and honestly, she isn’t wrong in her desire to rule, considering Kuzco is a terrible emperor.
Zach: Ok, so it would be Scar…except for Gaston. Honestly, I have no idea why, but Gaston from 1991 Beauty and the Beast has become extremely meme-able in our culture, and it is this meme-ability that has enriched many a friendship. In fact, my buddy Dave and I have made YTP Gaston a staple to game nights, food runs, and pretty much 75% of our inside jokes. Is it weird? Yes..but no one delights like Gaston.
Sam: Lumiere. He is one sexy candlestick.
Zach: How can there be Gaston without LeFou? Again, I vastly prefer the 1991 versions of these characters (because 1: 1991 Beauty and the Beast is 2nd only to The Lion King in my book, and 2: they are highly meme-able). Really, I don’t get it, but 1991 Gaston and LeFou have become a subculture of their own, and its hilarious all of the way.
Sam: WOW MY ANSWERS ARE BORING. Guess? Yup, it’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While this soundtrack doesn’t have the catchy songs that everyone sings in my local karaoke bar, I love the large choirs, the bells, the grand scale of everything. Every song more or less asks the same question posed in the opening: “Who is the monster and who is the man?” It’s brilliant! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the back-to-back pairing of Quasimodo’s “Heaven’s Light” and Frollo’s “Hellfire.” Pure genius.
Zach: The Lion King. It’s God, that’s it.
Sam: Zach will probably judge me for this, but “One of Us” from The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. That film is not on our list at the moment, but it should be!
Zach: I’m torn between “Can You Feel the Love Tonight“ (swoon!) and “Hellfire” (…saywhat?). Yes: “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is actually one of my favorites to sing. It starts out so simple, with the unassuming “Heaven’s Light,” then WHAMO! Holy Hell, we are in the throes of Judge Claude Frollo’s whacko insane, deeply evil internal conflict, with a goddamn impressive instrumental to match! It’s powerful, Gothic, horrible, weighty, and completely ballsy for Disney; in fact, “Hellfire” may be the “intellectual high water mark” of the Disney Renaissance, and is sure-as-hell fun to sing. So yes, that might be my favorite.
Sam: Portuguese red.
Zach: Anything from Williamsburg Winery, though most reds.