Tag Archives: Disney

Tamatoa – the best Disney Villain Ever!

Moana-Shiny-Tamatoa

As I may have mentioned, I really enjoy watching a good villain. Villains always seem to have the most fun. The perfect example is Tamatoa from Disney’s Moana, who has the all the best lines and steals every scene he is in, while also having the best bad boy song ever. My only problem … as a zoologist, I looked at Tatatoa and immediately thought to myself “But most crabs moult. Wouldn’t that mean he would lose that love shiny shell every year?”

Nope. Juvenile coconut crabs do moult, and like hermit crabs, the little crabs wear scavenged shells for protection. However, as adults, they grow a tough outer integument. The coconut crab reaches sexual maturity around five years after hatching. but they reach their maximum size only after 40 to 60 years. They are fully terrestrial once they mature, and can drown if held under water for too long (hence Tamatoa living in an air bubble).

So Tamatoa could have grown to be huge, and he could be wearing a shell covered in treasure from one year to the next; even if has moulted, he could be wearing his old shell over the new one. These little details are important to me, even though giant singing crabs don’t exist. They certainly don’t have teeth!

So, why do I have to try and make sense of an animated character? Well, Tamatoa wasn’t the original form of the villain. It is obvious that the animators had done quite a bit of research of their own to come up with our glam crab. By knowing how they came up with such a charismatic antagonist might help me add a bit of that glamour to my own villains.

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Is your Villain more interesting than your Hero?

250px-Captain_Jack_Sparrow

There has been an interesting trend in literary media in the past few years. Villains are no longer allowed to have a simple motive like “I want to rule the world” or “I will revenge myself on everyone”. Villains are now shown to see themselves as the good guys; which only makes sense, when you think about it. A villain who is a human being should be a mixture of good and bad traits. It is the conflict this mixture creates that makes a villain interesting.

Think about the greatest villain to come out of the movies in the past fifty years: Darth Vader. When we first meet him, he is just tall, dark and menacing. As the series progressed, we learnt more about him. In fact, I would argue that the six Star Wars movies are more about Darth Vader than they are about anyone else, since he is a central character in all six. What makes Darth Vader/Anakin so interesting? We all know he has a kernel of good in him, and that in the end it is the good in him that wins out.

Disney is right on trend with Maleficent. With that movie, we are given a much deeper look at one of the greatest Villains in the Disney catalogue. This retcon of the original story has our wicked fairy as simply misunderstood, rather than evil to the core. The same thing happened to Frozen, with our Snow Queen no longer a villain but now an anti-hero. I actually like Frozen and Maleficent for presenting us with female hero/anti-hero duos at the centre of these stories, even though I was disappointed with the way the real story of Han Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen was completely obliterated in Frozen. (I would still love to see a Disney version of the Snow Queen.) Their complexity of characterization made the ‘villains’ more interesting than the heroes.

For some reason, storytellers feel they can give their villains some redeeming qualities (which makes their downfall also a tragedy), but won’t give their heroes a few flaws. This is why we all love Marvel’s Loki even though we want Thor to win (and save the world). Thor – as a character in the Marvel universe – isn’t as interesting as Loki. They’ve tried to make him more ‘human’ by giving him a human love interest, but he is still a much less complicated character than Loki. And even while we are cheering when the Hulk is waving Loki around like a flag, even after he has torn our hearts out by killing Agent Coulson, we still feel sympathy for this character. Thor is white bread; Loki is a fruit and nut loaf. I don’t know about you, but I prefer texture and flavour over blandness.

So, do you find that your villains are more interesting than your heroes? How can we fix that? Most Young Adult Fiction overcomes this by have an angst-ridden loner as the protagonist of the story. And another way is to give your protagonist a few realistic flaws. Something a bit more interesting than biting her biting her nails or having fly-away hair. You have to avoid giving the protagonist ‘flaws’ that are actually virtues-in-disguise, because a savvy reader will pick up on that. (And aren’t all your readers intelligent individuals with excellent taste? Of course they are.)

Look at Sherlock Holmes and his current popularity (not that he is ever really unpopular). Sherlock is seriously flawed. No one likes a smartass, and that is what Sherlock is. In fact, if you were to list his characteristics, you would find a lot of them make him an excellent candidate for being a villain … look to his willingness to bend the truth and break the law on behalf of a client, often lying to the police, concealing evidence, manipulating emotions of bystanders, or breaking into houses. He redeems himself by being completely committed to his clients, and by the warmth of his friendship with Doctor Watson.

So, don’t be afraid to give your protagonist some really serious personality flaws, so long as they aren’t repellent like cruelty to animals or setting fires in nursing homes. Not only will she have to battle the villain, but her own nature. By overcoming both, she will win not only the battle, but the hearts of your audience.

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My Disappointment in Disney’s ‘Frozen’.

 

 

I haven’t even seen ‘Frozen’ yet, and already I am torn about how I feel about it. ‘Frozen’ is supposedly based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’, my favourite Andersen fairy tale. I have been avidly reading all the pre-release marketing, and the more I read, the more my heart sinks. 

 

Now, we all know that Disney has a terrible track record when it comes to sticking to the plot of an original fairy story. In the original stories, we know Ariel dies when her prince marries another, and become a wind spirit; Rapunzel was the daughter of ordinary people, and only became a princess through marriage; and so forth. I was pretty annoyed with ‘The Little Mermaid’ for changing the ending, but I tend to allow them some artistic licence with their animated movies.

 

Then I read some of the teasers for ‘Frozen’. So I did some more investigating and…

 

I don’t know if any of you have read the original ‘The Snow Queen’. It is told in seven chapters:

  1. About the Mirror and its Pieces
  2. A Little Boy and a Little Girl (Kai and Gerda)
  3. The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Knew Magic
  4. The Prince and Princess
  5. The Little Robber Girl
  6. The Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman
  7. What Happened at the Snow Queen’s Palace and What happened Afterwards

 

Now, you can see from the chapter headings how many women are central to the plot. Apart from the heroic Gerda, my favourite was and still is the fickle Little Robber Girl, who loved Gerda enough to give her up. And yet, now that I am older, I also love and appreciate Kai’s grandmother and her wisdom. There are ambiguous women in the story, like the Woman Who Knew Magic, who loves Gerda and wants to keep her as her own child, against Gerda’s wishes. Even the villain is a woman; the beautiful icy Snow Queen who steals away Kai.

 

It is the boy, Kai, who is need of rescue, not Gerda.  Gerda is the central, active protagonist, helped along by strong and powerful female characters. It is a story that really passes the Bechdel Test.

 

Then look at the ‘Frozen’ plot summary from the Walt Disney website: Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” presents “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

 

Oooh-kay….

 

I can live with Gerda’s name change to Anna, since Gerda isn’t a common name these days. At least Anna is fearless and optimistic, as I imagined Gerda. However … where is Kai? Kai has been removed completely, if that plot summary is anything to go by. The Snow Queen is the one who is being rescued? What the hell? And who the crap is Kristoff?  Since he supplies the reindeer, is he the replacement for the Prince and the Princess? Or worse, is Kristoff the replacement for Kai, and so he is no longer in need of rescue – since the Snow Queen is no longer a villain but a cursed sister. Instead of Gerda winning through by her own strength and resourcefulness, do we now have a male hero to do all the scary adventurous stuff? AND … where are all the other female characters? Don’t even get me started on Olaf … another male character making a sudden appearance.

 

There appears to be nothing, NOTHING, left of the original story, including most of the key female characters. And that is why I am so disappointed. I was expecting Disney to change the story somewhat … I expected a minimum of a comedic sidekick and I knew some cute animals were bound to show up. But to change it this much? Here was an opportunity to have a story that was all about an empowered, independent girl aided or hindered by empowered women, and there is nothing but rags left.

 

As well, Disney has ‘white-washed’ the fairy tale. I always imagined the Little Robber Girl as being of a Sámi extraction (because of the reindeer, not because she was a bandit), but it looks like she is gone from the story, and of course the Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman are gone as well. So much for multi-culturalism.

I should have guessed this would happen after I saw how the Disney franchise ruined the characterization of Merida when they transformed her into a Disney Princess.

 

And so ends my rant. Disney really has the power to annoy and delight me.

 

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The Gay Disney Princess.

Now, I want to explore the idea of a LGBT Disney Princess.

If I had to pick a gay princess, it would be Mulan. She prefers to dress and act like a man. Her relationship with her commanding officer is too pat and neat, and isn’t mentioned in the original text (a poem). She would enjoy the freedoms from gender roles, and might also enjoy finding a woman with a mind of her own – just like in the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” –

How ’bout a girl who’s got a brain
Who always speaks her mind?

Maybe Captain Li Shang isn’t the greatest catch, after all. He wasn’t very nice to her, and really … he thinks Mulan is a guy for the first half of the movie! Makes you wonder about Li Shang’s sexual preferences.

However, the fact Mulan is breaking gender roles doesn’t necessarily mean that she is gay. It is something of a stereotype that a cross-dresser would be gay. She might count as a transsexual princess, except she isn’t really a ‘Princess’.

Then there is Merida from ‘Brave’. She doesn’t need a man to complete her. She would also be a good selection for a gay princess. After all, she isn’t boy crazy and she is also not prepared to sit squarely in her gender role as a princess.

However, look to the prince in ‘Snow White’. He is so very, very pretty. In fact, he is nearly as pretty as the Princess Knight character in anime. It isn’t that much of a stretch to see him as a woman cross-dressing as a man. So, my choice for the first gay Disney princess is the first Disney Princess, Snow White. And it so explains how she could safely live with seven little men.

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