This past Memorial Day weekend I went with my wife to see Disney’s live action Aladdin. Only one day after our niece saw the same film. Let’s give a little back story before we dig in:
When Disney’s Aladdin released in 1992, my wife was seven years old. She was at the perfect age to fall completely in love with Disney films and was well on the way to her Phd in Disneyology, with a concentration on films of that era (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King). Somewhat coincidentally, our niece is now almost six years old and beginning her own career in the field. However, my niece has the advantage of attacking her course work with advice from a Disney doctor already in the family.
“Make sure you don’t skip over Aladdin,” my wife would counsel. “Don’t waste too much time on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And this fork is actually called a dinglehopper in certain circles. By the way, beware any people that emanate a green glow.”
Now with my sloppy metaphor aside, you get the picture. We’ve got multiple generations of Disneyphiles who were eagerly awaiting the release of live action Aladdin. What a wonderful situation for the giant that is Disney. A firm stranglehold on multiple generations of girls forever dreaming of musical princesses. What could go wrong?
Well I’ll tell you exactly what went wrong and it wasn’t Will Smith as the Genie. In fact, it was Jafar. He missed the mark quite terribly for both my wife (and me), as well as my niece. But for polar opposite reasons.
For myself and my wife, Jafar was toothless. A sorry excuse for a “bad guy,” and in our opinion not nearly scary or evil enough. We even felt that the cartoon version from 1992 was more creepy, menacing, and impactful than the live action version. Jafar was where the movie fell the most flat for us. Especially considering a large part of the audience already knows the outcome, a compelling Jafar could have really helped.
As a fantasy adventure writer, I have to interject another opinion here. The bad guy is the second most important part of a story. It’s not something that should ever be handled lightly or brushed aside as an afterthought. Obviously your hero is the most important thing, but what makes a hero shine is how they deal with their conflict. The bad guy is the conflict. Unfortunately, in this instance Jafar felt poorly cast, and boring.
But that’s the thirty-something perception. The five-year-old perception… well…
Jafar was absolutely terrifying. When he pushed Aladdin out the window and into the ocean my niece wanted to run for the exit, and when he turned into the most powerful genie in the world it was all over. She was running for the doors before finding out a happy ending was in the works. Jafar scared her out of the room. The cartoon version doesn’t do that to her though because it’s a cartoon. There was too much realism for her in the live action remake, and when contrasting that with my wife’s opinion something occurred to me.
Seemingly, all is not well in the Magic Kingdom.
Now, I’m sure you’ll scoff at that evaluation. Disney made more money this weekend than I even know how to imagine, and they’ll do that twenty times this year alone. Even so, I’ll stick to my premise. Disney shouldn’t sit back and think everything is fine. After all, Disney’s business is core memories, and the nostalgia that keeps people coming back to them. The only core memory made this weekend in our family was one of terror, and on the other end of the spectrum the nostalgia wanes a little more with each remake. I can see my wife a little less excited to see each new live action film, and a little more ready to expect some disappointment.
And that’s really the point. I know I’m the fool trying to shout over the category five hurricane that is the Disney money machine, but they really shouldn’t lose sight of the future. Because you can’t please everyone, and when you try… you will fail. Disney will either ruin some great cartoons for a new generation of kids, or a generation of woman will finally become exhausted with a company that leverages their childhood against their purses, and it could be both.
Disney should also remember that this coming generation of students has a generation of masters to provide them with counsel. Keep going back to the same well, over and over, and Disney might not like the wisdom these women pass down to their successors.
Thanks for reading,
Dylan Lee Peters
Running is a pastime that’s been growing on me lately. I challenged myself to run 500 miles this year, and two months in, I have 379 miles to go. This past weekend my wife and I completed the Excalibur 10 Miler in Viera, Florida. The theme of the race was Medieval; somewhat like a Renaissance Fair. Some runners dressed up accordingly, and much of the race decorum maintained the theme. Before the race began, runners were entertained by a battle between two actors from the Medieval Times dinner show in Orlando. It was somewhat akin to the battle between the Mountain and the Red Viper from Game of Thrones, except no one’s head was crushed like a grape. It was entertaining though, and put a unique twist on the otherwise repetitive exercise of running ten miles. In fact, it was the unique theme of the race that first prompted my wife and I to participate.
My wife was really the impetus for my beginning to run. She was on the Cross Country Team in high school and decided to get back into running a couple years ago. I decided to join her, firstly as support, but secondly because I was looking to kick my own posterior into form. However, I could have chosen a multitude of different activities to become involved in. She gets the credit for making that choice to run. Because we live in Florida, she has been signing up for the RunDisney races that Disney World puts on throughout the year. (You can see some of her blog posts here). She loves getting involved with all things Disney, and the races give her a chance to do something active, while geeking out on her favorite childhood nostalgia. (Leave it to Disney to find great ways to merge events into marketing gold). It’s always amazed me how many people really love getting involved with these races, and especially, how many people like to dress up for them. So many people love the idea of showing off as their favorite characters. This all gave me an idea.
I don’t know how to get something like this started – it would certainly take people with more time and know-how than me – but I thought it would be a great idea to have an author run. The race could be any distance, or distances, and the obvious theme of the race would be literary. Racers could elect to dress as any of their favorite literary characters, (I can easily picture a hundred women dressed as Katniss Everdeen) and the race could serve as a sort of literary festival.
It is common, in these races, to have a festival-style area located at the finish. Vendors set up booths, mostly with food, drink, and products suited for runners. It becomes part of the event, something that makes it more than just a run, and it lends itself to creating a race that has a theme. I think it would be a great idea for an author race to have booths set up where you could meet local authors. They could give books away, talk to prospective readers, and gain exposure. It would be a great way for authors to get out from behind the computer and find fans in a unique way. I know I’d be happy to have a booth at an event like this.
So, help me out event planners and runners, let’s get this event off of the ground. I’m sure someone has some great ideas that could add to the event. Post in the comments. I’m interested to know what you think.