Well, we did it! We started the Ultimate Disney Challenge with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and if you’re as bothered by the spelling of “dwarfs” as I am, congratulations.
From an animation standpoint, the film is pretty impressive. I knew very little about the historical background, but Zach informed me that people had laughed at Walt Disney when he said he was going to make a full-length animated feature. It just wasn’t something that was done in the 30s. So that he proved the haters wrong is interesting.
Also, the artistry. We spent a lot of time admiring the ripples of the water in Snow White’s wishing well, the glint of the diamonds in the mind, the minute details of the woodwork in the dwarves’ (YES, I AM SPELLING IT “DWARVES”) cottage.
It’s still not a good movie.
As we watched, we played a drinking game, in which we drank every time the movie reinforced the White Heteronormative Bourgeois Patriarchy (get used to that term, because I use it a lot). Essentially, we were waterfalling the entire time. Fun!
Snow White cooks, and cleans, and takes care of old, hairy men, and never gets angry or even annoyed when they’re mean and misogynistic (looking at you, Grumpy), and her only dream is to get married to some rich guy whose name she doesn’t even know. As modern viewers, we found ourselves rooting for the Evil Queen. She is the one with agency. Sure, her motivations are crap, but at least she does interesting things.
Speaking of motivations, SNOW WHITE is a classic example of pitting women against women. The Evil Queen wants to kill her because she’s jealous? Really?
I could rant about this movie forever, but I’m going to end it with one final thing: I never want to see a Grumpy t-shirt again. Seriously, this guy is NOT charming. His lines reek with misogyny. Here’s an actual quote:
She’s a female! And all females is poison! They’re full of wicked wiles!
Ooooookay. I don’t care that he learns to like her by the end of the film. Most of us know that “racist learning to not be racist” is not a good character arc, and neither is “man learning to not hate women.” So please, let’s not idolize his “attitude.”
Not noteworthy, but perhaps that’s just because I had to drink it so fast to keep up with our game. I will say that I thought it appropriate to pair Snow White with a Sauvignon Blanc, as it’s, you know…blanc.
I’m a sucker for a good fairytale retelling, but I’ve never found a Snow White one that I’ve deeply enjoyed, probably because I’m not a big fan of the source material to begin with. So I’m just going to recommend A GAME OF THRONES instead. Why? Well, it has my favorite dwarf, my favorite evil queen, and my favorite person named Snow.
I know, I know. This is boring — a truly terrible choice for my first film/wine/book pairing. I’m assuming you don’t live under a rock; therefore, you don’t need me to review A GAME OF THRONES. So here’s a gif of Jon Snow instead:
I promise my next book pairing will be better. If you have other suggestions for books to pair with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, please leave them in the comments!
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.”
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.
In 2017, I did a lot of great things, but one of the best was getting to know Zach Webb Nicholls, also known as Dr. Jaws. When it comes to my writing, he’s my #1 Go-To Muse, and over the course of the last year, we’ve talked a lot about storytelling, and in doing so we discovered that we’re both Disney fanatics.
We also discovered that there are gaping holes in our Disney knowledge. So we made a goal: to watch every Disney Animation Studio Film (plus selected others, such as masterpieces like The Haunted Mansion* and Pirates of the Caribbean) in chronological order. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to take years, especially because we’ve instituted a “no double feature” rule so that we have time to process each film individually. But we’re going to do it, and because we’re really good at naming things we’re calling it Zach and Sam’s Ultimate Disney Challenge.
And because I like pain, apparently, I’ve decided that I’m going to blog about it. I’ll do write-ups on our thoughts, and I’ll likely do wine and book pairings as well (for example, “Drink this lovely Sauvignon Blanc while watching Snow White. For extra fun, take a sip every time the film reinforces the White Heteronormative Bourgeois Patriarchy.) Who knows? Maybe every now and then I’ll say something wise about writing. Also, I’m hoping Zach will be kind enough to do some guest posts, and he will definitely provide some words of wisdom.
So without further ado, click here to see our challenge!
We start on Friday, December 8th, 2017, so stay tuned for updates as we go!
*I will go to my grave shouting that there should be an Oscar for “Best Opening Credits,” in which case The Haunted Mansion would have won in 2003.
Earlier I made a list of 17 things I learned in 2017, and I’ve decided to elaborate on that list one thing at a time.
I’m a plotter. By the time I sit down and write “Chapter One,” I have upwards of 20,000 words of outlines, ramblings, research, and character sketches, plus Pinterest boards, playlists, aesthetics, and diagrams.
I’m also a plotter when it comes to Real Life. I like to have a good idea of what my week will look like: what are my goals? What big project do I have to accomplish at work? What am I cooking? Who am I hanging out with?
This year, I learned that plotting doesn’t always work, both when it comes to writing and Real Life.
Let’s start with writing. This Fall, I had Plans: I was going to draft an entire novel in two months. Why shouldn’t I? I’d done it before, and I’d seen plenty of others do it. I was going to crank it out, revise, send to my agent.
Well, that didn’t happen. I made progress, sure. 30,000 words worth of progress. But I didn’t do as much as I would have liked, partially because life happened: family emergency, friend’s wedding, the 2nd Annual Harry Potter Party, and so forth.
At first, I was pretty disappointed in myself. I’ve drafted manuscripts quickly in the past. Why was this one taking longer? Well, it’s definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to write: multiple PoVs, lots of historical detail, all that jazz. It’s also the most personal: the Jewish protagonist deals with a lot of the insecurities and casual antisemitism that I’ve experienced in my own life. So it’s going to take longer, and I’m OK with that.
Now onto Real Life. I had a lot of Plans for that, too. I was going to eat healthier. Start exercising (ha!). Figure out the bird’s nest that is my hair. Advance my career. Learn Portuguese. Go to more Spanish conversation hours.
Guess what? None of that happened. But that’s OK, too, because what I did do was focus more on my writing, the thing that matters most to me. I also read a TON and strengthened a lot of friendships.
So just because things didn’t go exactly the way I planned doesn’t mean this year wasn’t a good one, personally. It was, and I look forward to 2018.
The first time I came to New York City is a time I don’t remember.
The first time I remember is sitting on a cramped bus, singing along to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” with my Girl Scout troop, making our way to Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.
The first time it mattered was taking the ferry the summer in between my freshman and sophomore year of college. We were in Times Square; then, suddenly, we were in the Random House lobby, the books glowing in glass cases.
The first time it was real was lugging my suitcase into an NYU dormitory for a six-week summer program to help me land “the dream job.”
The first time it was permanent was lugging that same suitcase to a walk-up in Astoria, Queens, and saying, “This is home.”