Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fairy Tales and Childhood

Last week, my husband and I went to see Frozen.  I am a huge Disney fan, and when I saw the trailer, I was incredibly excited, especially when I found out that it was based off of the story of the Ice Queen.  I was curious to see how they would do it, especially since it didn’t look like they were following the main plot points as much as they usually did.

To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I loved the small twists that gave a nod to Han Christen Anderson’s original.  I won’t mention them here, just to prevent spoilers. 
One of the things that I love to do, especially when I read/watch something that I really enjoy, is to go online and read others’ reviews on the topic.  Usually I don’t post my own, but I like to see both sides of the story.  And for some reason, I like to read the negative reviews, to see what sections were a bit less satisfying for others. 

What surprised me the most about these negative reviews were two things: One it was considered a ‘good effort,’ but nowhere up to par with the Disney classics like Lion King or Little Mermaid.  The other complaint was that the score was less than thrilling with ‘forgettable’ songs, except for one.  And if you’ve seen the movie, you know which one they’re talking about.

So I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit recently.  What made those Disney movies classics?  How is it that most of the new movies are considered subpar when compared to them?  Is it the animation?  Is it the music? 

As I was thinking about this, I talked to one of my sisters about it, and how much I enjoyed it.  I began mentioning that the story meant so much more to me because I loved the story of the Snow Queen, and I loved seeing it expanded in the way that it was.  She mentioned to me that maybe I enjoyed it so much because I knew the story.  I was already familiar with the characters – to a specific point.  That’s one of the things that Disney is most famous for.  They take classics that everyone has grown up with – Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and give it a new spin.

Why is there such a surge in fairy tales in the movies?  Yes, I’m sure it has something to do with copyrights, but I think it also has to do with the fact that fairy tales are almost universally a part of everyone’s childhood.  It touches them in ways that perhaps a new story won’t.  How many people read a classic from their childhood and immediately get a flood of nostalgia?  I think that’s one of the reasons that the Polar Express and Where the Wild Things Are became movies.  Not because they were that long or good of stories, but because they touched the viewers in a way that a new story might not have.

So when I see critics of Frozen, I wonder how many of them know the actual fairy tale.  It’s not as common as a story like Beauty and the Beast, or even Rapunzel.  I think Rapunzel received much higher praise, just because it was a well-known fairy tale with a unique twist.

Now, for the second question, I’d like to take this just a bit further.  The songs were heard by critics, aka adults.  How many of those adults, comparing the score to classics from the Lion King, were children when watching those classics?  I went back and compared the music.  I know that this is all very subjective, but I think that if the Lion King were to come out for the first time, it wouldn’t be as well received by our critics as it was back then.  Those songs aren’t just a representation of ‘good music,’ but they’re also a representation of our childhood – a time that seemed simpler, when things were happier.  So how could anything else compare? 

But when we look at these movies – for children – with the eyes of children, something surprising may occur.  This isn’t our childhood anymore, but it is theirs.  In ten year from now, I’m almost positive that songs from Frozen, Tangled, and all the movies coming out will be considered the ‘classics.’  While the songs that we grew up with will be considered ‘old.’  In fact, I’ve already seen that happen with some children that I’ve worked with recently.  

What do you think?