The Great Disney ‘I Want Song’ Poll

Following the immense scientific success of The Great Disney Princess Vote, I’ve decided to run another poll tournament, this time one that is actually scientific and properly run and everything. Fancy that.

This poll will focus on I Want songs – those ditties Disney characters sing to help us appreciate their hopes and wishes. They’re often the musical highlights of their films, and recent examples include For The First Time In Forever and When Will My Life Begin.

The tournament will consist of 16 songs, so we’ll start with eight polls, then four in the quarter finals, then two in the semi finals, then of course, the final.

The competing songs are:

When Will My Life Begin (Tangled)
Reflection (Mulan)
Someday My Prince Will Come (Snow White)
Once Upon A Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella)
For the First Time in Forever (Frozen)
Just Around the River Bend (Pochahantas)
I Can Go The Distance (Hercules)
Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King)
Strangers Like Me (Tarzan)
Almost There (Princess and the Frog)
Out There (Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
True Love’s Kiss (Enchanted)
I’m Wishing (Snow White)

And the first round is

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella) v I Can Go The Distance (Hercules)
Strangers Like Me (Tarzan) v Out There (Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King) v I’m Wishing (Snow White)
Reflection (Mulan) v True Love’s Kiss (Enchanted)
When Will My Life Begin (Tangled) v Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid) Almost There (Princess and the Frog)
For the First Time in Forever (Frozen) v Once Upon A Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
Just Around the River Bend (Pochahantas) v Some Day My Prince Will Come (Snow White)

The Quarter Finals:

I Can Go The Distance (Hercules) v Out There (Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King) v Reflection (Mulan)
Belle (Beauty and the Beast) v Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
Once Upon A Dream (Sleeping Beauty) v Just Around the River Bend (Pochahantas)

The Semi Finals:
I Can Go The Distance (Hercules) v Just Can’t Wait to Be King (The Lion King)
Once Upon A Dream (Sleeping Beauty) v Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)

Moana Month

You may have heard that I quite like Disney films. They’re cool, and you should quite like them too. Gladly, any non-believers have the opportunity to learn the error of their ways in November when Disney’s latest animated masterpiece, Moana, hits screens.


To celebrate, I think I’m going to launch a little month in Disney’s honour: Moana Month. I’m not sure of the exact content at the moment, but as Moana is the latest Disney Princess, it’ll definitely focus on the Princesses. Because they, like Disney, are cool.

I’m definitely going to write an in-depth piece about my personal love for the Princesses, and probably do a Top 5 Princess films countdown. There’ll be other little bits and pieces too. Like I said, I haven’t really planned it out. Leave me alone, ok!!

As ever on Kids Riding Bicycles, this is very much a participation piece, so please feel free to comment and get involved. It’s what the Princesses would do.

The Great Disney Princess Poll

Across the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using the power of Twitter polls to scientifically prove beyond all doubt which Disney Princess is the best of them all. Spoiler alert: it’s Rapunzel…



My methodology for this highly important poll was utterly and hopelessly unscientific, which is a bit of a problem when you’re scientifically proving something beyond all doubt. First, I stuck up a poll about the best Renaissance Princess. That was quite fun, I thought, so then I did another one about the best Modern Princess. Also fun, so I did a third one, this time focusing on Classic Princesses. “Hey,” I figured. “There’s a chance here for a tournament.” So I made up some Princesses to complete a round of Quarter Finals, and the tournament was set!

Science is fun!

Check out this staggering act of scientific genius in full below…

Ok, yes, this was the worst act of sciencing ever, and I wish I’d had it all mapped out in my head before starting. I pretty much saw it as an individual poll when I started that first one; no follow-ups, no tournament. Just a one-off. If I were to do it again, I’d split the Princesses into batches of two, rather than four, and go from there. I’d probably randomise them, pitting different generations against each other, rather than keeping the eras together in groups. But hey, science is hard, and I got, I think, a C in it at CGSE. So screw it!

The results are genuinely interesting, I think, particularly the popularity of Mulan. Sure she’s a great character, but when we think of the Renaissance period, we generally tend to think of Ariel, Belle, or Jasmine. Mulan’s generally overlooked. But the years have been kind to her, and maybe there’s a good reason for that, as brilliantly articulated by Cat Lester, a PhD student who I follow on Twitter and who has written brilliantly on Frozen.





This makes total sense and the forthcoming live action remake will be fascinating to follow when viewed through the prism of social development since 1998. Mulan, it seems, was ahead of her time and now that the rest of the world has caught up, she’s finally getting the due she deserves.

The other surprise was the early elimination of Anna and Elsa, and this is where my decision-making really falls down. Had I thought about it more clearly, I’d have split the Sisters of Arendelle up, ensuring that the popularity/unpopularity of one didn’t affect judgement of the other. three of the Sisters Switch rightly pointed out that this could have been a major contributing factor.

I wonder what would have happened had I split them up and divided the tournament into several smaller polls? I also wonder what the results would have been had younger kids been voting on it. Rapunzel seems to fly well with teens and early 20-somethings, perhaps because her “when will my life begin” refrain chimes with an age group that’s starting to fly solo itself. They can obviously relate to Elsa too, but ‘Let It Go’ has become such a sing along anthem, and that sparkly gown such a dress-up favourite, that she seems a favourite of the young in a way she simply isn’t with teens and young adults.

Either way, Rapunzel’s progress to the final didn’t surprise me as she’s a great character; indeed, I personally favour her over Mulan, so part of me was pleased to see her take the crown. But, I was quietly willing Mulan on, if I’m honest. Her success was so unexpected and so significant that it felt right that she should win. More than that, it would have put paid to the nonsense that Princesses are all weak, passive waifs who offer nothing to society and are bad role models for young girls.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, but it hardly diminishes the significance of Mulan, or the Princesses as a whole. My poll may have been the least scientifically sound thing in the history of science, but it underlined what I wanted it to underline: that the Princesses are cool, popular, and relevant. Long may they reign.

Mouse House Movie Club #7: Enchanted


Welcome to The Mouse House Movie Club. Each week (or whenever I get the chance), I dig out a Disney film (either animated or live action) from my shelf, pick a Disney short, and watch both together in one superb evening of Disneyfied goodness. I then write about it in a blog much like (well, exactly like) the one you’re about to read. So, without further ado, here’s this week’s edition of The Mouse House Movie Club.

Short Film: The Art of Skiing, in which Goofy hits the slopes. Like, literally. He literally goes smash bang.

Feature Presentation: Enchanted, in which your dear writer gets on his high horse about Princesses. Again.

The Art of Skiing
Goofy’s a pretty unique character among Disney’s classic set. While the likes of Donald and Mickey have largely stayed the same through their decades-long careers, Goofy has undergone a number of changes. He’s been a single father (in The Goofy Movie and the Goof Troop TV series), a loving suburban family man (during the 50s), and most brilliantly of all, the star of a series of instructional films. Once such film is The Art of Skiing, and while it’s not the absolute best of this somewhat strange series (hello to you How to Play Football), it’s still a work of genius.

Reportedly created to help Disney cope with the departure of Goofy voice artist Pinto Colvig (who had a falling out with Walt), the How To series almost entirely removes Goofy’s need to speak (beyond a few howls and laughs) by giving all the dialogue to a honey-toned narrator. It’s a clever solution to the core problem, but it’s also a frankly ingenious concept because it doesn’t really matter what you have Goofy do, the very idea of an idiot like him offering instructions on how to do something is very very funny.

Yet, there’s more to this series, and this short, than simple laughs. Goofy’s so inept and yet so loveable you can’t help but will him on. As he shambles from one disaster to the next, he seems to become more innocent and the whole concept a little crueller. It’s almost like the narrator is a vengeful God, tormenting our hero and doing nothing to help him out despite his utter incompetence. Theological philosophy in a 1940s Disney short?!…

Well, ok ok…

Yes, that may be taking it a bit too far, but the juxtaposition of the narrator’s calm and Goofy’s anarchy undoubtedly adds to what makes these shorts so special. Watch The Art of Skiing, and if you like it, do check out the others. They’re so brilliant that Disney even briefly revived the format in 2007 with the short How to Hook Up Your Home Theatre. Predictably, Goofy finds it even tougher than most.

And now, our feature presentation…

enchantedOnce Upon A Time…
With Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel so prominent nowadays, it’s easy to forget that just a decade ago, the Disney Princess film seemed deader than Hans’ hopes of being King. Shrek did such a comprehensive hit job on the concept that it was not just unpopular to be a Disney Princess, but deemed to be something genuinely dangerous. Princesses were weak and they perpetuated an image of women as passive, wide-eyed innocents who only developed a sense of agency when they found their ‘one true love’. Worse, by portraying Fiona’s Princess form as nothing more than a cover for her true ogre self, Shrek subtly positioned the Princess as a falsehood that no real young girl could possibly live up to.

It’s little wonder then that Disney as a studio was struggling in the early 2000s. Every peak in Disney history has been powered by Princesses, be that the early days with Snow White, the post-war resurgence with Cinderella, the Renaissance with Ariel and Belle, or the modern era with Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa. Every downturn, on the other hand, has been marked by their absence, most notably the 80s and the post-Renaissance period, where the only sniff of a Princess was dear old Eilonwy in The Black Cauldron. I’ve been vocal about how these periods are, artistically speaking, not as bad as many claim, but it’s beyond doubt that they lack direction, and that’s because of the lack of Princesses.

Princesses, in short, get shit done.

As the 2000s wore on, Disney needed to bring the Princess back, acknowledge the damage done by Shrek, and yet at the same time, highlight everything great about Cinderella, Belle, Ariel et al. Their answer was Enchanted, a parody that somehow seems to transcend parody and be as sincere and sweet as Snow White singing to some rabbits in a sunlit meadow. It turned out to be a smash hit, and it opened the studio up to a whole new world (sorry)…


Sword of humour, fly swift and sure
Self-deprecation is a significant weapon. It’s why Donald Trump will never posses any power, no matter how much wealth and fame he accrues: he can’t laugh at himself, and will doggedly pursue anyone who tries with lawsuit clasped in those teeny tiny hands of his. Disney’s a wiser company than many give it credit for, and they knew that the only way to turn the tide against Shrek was to join in the joke. “Hey, y’know what, we get it: we can laugh at ourselves too. Here look…”

Any moron can laugh at themselves though (even Trump let Fallon ruffle his hair). Disney couldn’t simply mock itself, otherwise it’d seem disingenuous. There’s too much riding on Disney’s heritage and they’re too proud of it (rightly so) to mock it with the gleeful abandon that Shrek did. So Enchanted engages in a little bit of light banter: a visual reference here, a sly lyric there. It’s parody, but it’s very very soft, and it wasn’t until I rewatched the film (for the first time in a long time) that I realised the humour doesn’t bit all that much.

Look at ‘Happy Working Song’, for example. Here we have Giselle helping out her adopted family by cleaning their apartment the only way she know how: by calling on her animal friends. You can go very dark with this kind of material; Shrek had Fiona engage in a singing battle with a cute bird where the notes got so high the bird implodes. Enchanted simply replaces fuzzy wuzzy rabbits and owls with dirty wirty rats and cockroaches. This joke has been done many times before and since, and it’s really very tame. But here it works.

Part of the reason for this is that it comes from Disney. It’s like when the President mocks himself at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. A comedian making those jokes is a little bland because that comedian is able to do so much more than what they’re delivering. When the President makes them, however, it pushes the envelope of what we expect and what’s permissible, and so it feels more dangerous and more exciting. “Did he really say that?!” “Did Disney really just show rats cleaning a toilet with toothbrushes!?”

The other reason it works is because all that humour is covering up something more: a Trojan Horse of a film that’s mocking Princesses while at the same time defending them with much greater force.


Hey! Keep trying!
Princess songs are critical to the characters’ make-up, so it’s worth diving deeper into Enchanted‘s roster of ditties because they’re at the heart of the sleight of hand the film performs. As I discussed in my Frozen piece, ‘Let It Go’ exists in two contradictory states: both celebrating Elsa’s freedom and lamenting her isolation. The music is triumphant, but the lyrics speak of sadness. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz achieve a similar thing here, Menken’s music playing up the pastiche, Schwartz’s lyrics exposing the sincerity.

In ‘Happy Working Song’, we laugh at the ridiculousness of the set up and that ridiculousness is emphasised by Menken, whose music hits the well-worn beats that have become cliches. Schwartz’s lyrics are funny too, but they’re also sincere and somewhat sad. At this stage in the film, Giselle is looking for something to cling to, a ray of reliability in a world she doesn’t understand. Singing is her way of doing that, and she tells us this in the song: “We’ll keep singing without fail otherwise we’d spoil it,” she says at one point. “I guess a new experience could be worth trying,” she later adds with resolve, “Hey! Keep trying!”

Here, in this most ridiculous and parodical of scenes, is the very heart of the Disney Princess: kindness, endeavour, optimism, and openness. Everything about Giselle’s life has been turned upside down – her very being has changed. And yet rather than weeping for what she’s lost, she looks ahead to what she might enjoy. The same is true beyond the songs. When Robert suggests she move out and go her own way, she doesn’t whine or beg to stay with him. Despite her confusion and desperation for a friend, she thanks him for his kindness and goes on with her life, taking the same attitude that if she just “keeps trying” she’ll succeed.

We can dismiss this kind of faith as childishly naive, and the film acknowledges that by having Giselle immediately give the money Robert donates to her away to a stranger. But it’s also inspiring and in ‘That’s How You Know’, Giselle’s optimism inspires all of New York to drop what they’re doing and join in her sense of wonder. Like ‘Happy Working Song’, it’s a sequence that’s superficially rather shallow: Robert’s baffled by the fact that people know the song and he refuses to sing and dance along. Obvious jokes with obvious punchlines.

But the joke’s on everyone who’d mock this kind of sequence in a typical Disney Princess film, because ‘That’s How You Know’ specifically and Enchanted as a whole aren’t really laughing at anything. ‘That’s How You Know’ repeatedly tells us to keep trying – keep being positive, keep being optimistic, keep being kind, keep showing the people you love that you love them. And by the end of it, Giselle’s amassed an army of cynical New Yorkers to dance and sing along in scenes that could easily come from Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid. The audience does the same, because how could you not? Look at it. Look at how awesome this is…



It’s Enchanted‘s greatest victory. The film turns the detractors’ weapon against them by reconfiguring a parody song into something that seems like it’s making fun, but is actually defending everything the Princess films have always been about. Many a true word has indeed been spoken in jest…

It fits…
Yet a bigger question remains. Enchanted needed to do more than simply shake off the derision that Shrek had incited; it needed to evolve the relevance of the Princess film by going beyond self-reflexity and touching on social relevance. It achieves this beautifully not only through where it takes Giselle, but also how it plays with the characters of Edward, Robert’s girlfriend Nancy, and Queen Narissa’s henchman Nathaniel.

Nathaniel may be the most proactive bad guy for most of the film, but he’s only evil because he labours under the misapprehension that Narissa will one day love him. His revelation that he simply doesn’t like himself very much plays into this and is one of the many little moments of deep, sincere meaning that Enchanted has to offer: we all do bad things because we think they’re going to eventually make us happy. In many ways, his journey plays like a mirror image of Giselle’s. He’s looking for a happy ending too, he just goes about it in an underhand way.

The same is true of Nancy and Edward, who end up together in a finale that ties together a little too neatly, but is still critical to the film’s overarching message and social significance. Neither character ever breaks out of their fairy tale mindsets, always believing that true love’s kiss is just around the corner. Are they wrong for taking this view? Of course not. One of the many wonderful things about Enchanted is that it never once laughs at its characters for their desires, never ones accuses them of being stupid. It simply accepts them and shows why the characters might need them.

This attitude contributes to one of my favourite scenes in the film. Having taken a bite from Narissa’s poisoned apple, Giselle is knocked out and needs true love’s kiss to bring her to. The film attempts no mockery of this moment, and doesn’t try to invert it as Maleficent or Frozen did (with great success). It plays it sincerely, and uses it to draw its characters into finally admitting their feelings: Robert and Giselle love each other. What follows is pure kindness: confronted with a moment that will end their hopes of cementing their relationships with their respective partners, Nancy and Edward don’t feel bitter or angry and they don’t jealously try to split the couple up. They encourage Robert to kiss Giselle because they know it’s true love, and they care about that, Giselle, and doing the right thing. Edward, the massive optimistic dope, is even beaming with delight as Robert goes in for the all-important smooch.

It’s the film in microcosm. Confronted with a moment that could have been subverted, Enchanted ignores sarcasm and plays it straight, smiling not a smile of derision, but of sheer joy. It’s kind, it’s warm, it’s… nice. It tells us that Princesses  – whether actual Princesses or just those who aspire to be Princesses – are heroes because they accept people and never once try to diminish them.


That’s powerful stuff and it both shames the satirists and teaches a valuable lesson to kids. “Hey,” it says, “there’s nothing wrong with being a Princess, there’s nothing wrong with not being a Princess. Do what brings you joy, respect what brings others joy, and may you all find your happily ever after.”

What a lovely idea, and Enchanted shows us that maybe it doesn’t just exist in storybooks.

Next week: it’s Halloween, so time to get spooky (or spoopy as ‘the youth’ call it) with The Black Cauldron.

Mouse House Movie Club Goes Spooky: Trick or Treat


It’s October, and that means Halloween. Hurrah for falling leaves, long dark nights, and lots and lots of pumpkins. And hurrah too for scary movies! 

Disney may not be known for their scary movies, but every now and then, they produce something utterly, brilliantly terrifying. Throughout October, this special strand of The Mouse House Movie Club will look at some of the very finest spooky Disney offerings, so you can add a little bit of Disney magic to your frightening fun.

Mouse House Movie Club Goes Spooky #3: Trick or Treat

So far in Mouse House Movie Club Goes Spooky, I’ve covered a couple of lesser know gems, so now I’ve opted for a classic. The Donald Duck film Trick or Treat is one of the best-know spooky Disney shorts, indeed one of the great spooky animations of all time. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s not just a great short. Duck legend Carl Barks took it to the page in a brilliant comic strip that’s become as well known as the film thanks to Barks’ creepy creation Smorgie the Bad being removed from his script. It is, in short, really damn good, and that’s because it’s a perfect storm of brilliance.

The first thing that strikes you about Trick or Treat is how beautiful it looks. Made in 1952, it boasts all the visual splendour of that period of Disney film-making, with its deep night skies and cosy suburban neighbourhoods. It’s a picture perfect vision of American life, similar to the one we’d see a few years later in Lady and the Tramp, and it adds a warmth to Trick or Treat that makes it impossible to resist. You want to live in this lovely little world, even if it does contain a nasty witch intent on making Donald’s life a misery.

Our ‘poor’ hero is subjected to an endless parade of tricks at the hands of Witch Hazel in the limited course of this short but, of course, the little shit deserves it. When Huey, Dewey, and Louie come knocking on his door in their adorable Halloween costumes, they get firecrackers instead of sweets from their ever-loving Unca Donald. This is because – and I can’t stress this enough – Donald Duck is a massive dickhead, and despite his obvious lovableness (how can you not love that voice), it’s great fun to see him tormented by Hazel and the nephews. In song, no less!

Like all great Halloween cartoons, there’s humour in amongst the macabre. Donald is attacked by a giant cackling pumpkin, bullied by crooning ghosts (always the best kind of ghost), and forced to dance until he can dance no more. It’s hilarious and one of the most GIFable Disney shorts of all time. Just look at this awesomeness. LOOK AT IT!








Despite all this, Donald never relents. Hazel repeatedly tells him he can stop the madness by simply giving his nephews the treat they deserve, but Donald keeps going, keeps believing he can ultimately win. It’s what makes Trick or Treat not just a great Halloween short, but also a great Donald short. Pop culture has rarely given us a character more pig-headed, more stubborn, more utterly determined to do the most stupid thing he can possibly do than Donald. It’s what makes him so charming, and so brilliantly iconic. He’s like a cartoon Sisyphus, doomed to endlessly repeat the same thing over and over and over again.

It’s tragic, it’s beautiful, it’s a melancholic insight into the foibles of the human soul. It’s also got amazing GIFs like this!













Until next time… stay eeire-sistible. (Ugh, that doesn’t even make sense!)

Arendelle’s in deep, deep, deep, deep ice…: Disney On Ice

Disney on Ice hit my hometown this weekend, so of course, I booked my ticket and spent Friday night looking slightly awkward in an arena full of kids dressed as Anna, Elsa, and Olaf (nobody dresses as Hans because Hans is, well, Hans is Hans…)

A much better Hans...
A much better Hans…

Having never been to a Disney on Ice show before I didn’t know what to expect (beyond, y’know, Disney characters… on ice). I knew the show was Frozen themed (yay!), but what that meant, I wasn’t quite sure. Would Anna and Elsa be skating to the Bolero? Would they be dancing and singing? Would they — wait, didn’t Anna have trouble skating at the end of Frozen, therefore making a mockery of this entire idea?!…

Gladly, I got what I was hoping for: a straight up adaptation of the film, but done with ice skaters. That may not sound too great for those who’ve already seen Frozen countless times thanks to their kids, but it’s exactly what I wanted because it offers the chance to see the same story told in a different medium. How would the skating rink change the make up of the story and the layout of some of the key scenes? There’s great value in that and it made for a fascinating experience.

But before you start thinking, “Paul, this is Disney on Ice, and you’re – what – you’re going to bore me with tales of storytelling devices and narrative integrity?!”, here’s Mickey, Donald, Nemo, Rapunzel, Puumba from The Lion King (!?) and a whole host of other favourites dancing to (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher. IT’S AWESOME!

Back to Frozen, the story is pretty faithful to the film, with only a few major diversions: we never see Anna and Elsa’s parents and Hans doesn’t confront Elsa at her ice palace. These are understandable changes as they make for a less cluttered, quicker narrative. The only real knock-on effect is that Hans seems to disappear in the middle of the story, making his turn to villainy at the end seem a bit forced.

There are changes elsewhere, of course, but they’re mostly to the set-up of songs. Fixer Upper and In Summer, for example, need to find active roles for Anna and Kristoff, who are largely passive during those numbers in the film. So On Ice has Kristoff showing his distain at Olaf and the Trolls’ obliviousness, while Anna joins in the singing and dancing. It’s a necessity, but a neat one because it highlights Anna’s deep joy at pretty much everything and makes her seem even more charming. I mean, look at her during In Summer!!

Frozen‘s so full of complex, melancholic emotions that it’s pretty challenging to translate to a happiness-and-joy-for-the-whole-family ice show. I mean, how do you take a scene about two lonely kids struggling to connect with each other and make it feel… fun? I was impressed that Disney On Ice didn’t even try. Do You Wanna Build A Snowman in ice format may be even sadder than it is on screen because it’s so small.

While other sequences go big with the set design, Snowman is Elsa’s bed, a door, and nothing else. Anna skates around enjoying her freedom and trying to persuade her sister out of hiding, while Elsa herself stays alone on this tiny bed refusing to budge. In the film, at least we saw Elsa a bit, at least there was something there for us to latch onto. In On Ice, there’s nothing, she’s lost – literally as well as emotionally. Anna may as well be singing to herself, which is kinda the point.

The reprise of For the First Time in Forever is another highlight and masterstroke of economy. In the film, the two characters sing their parts directly to one another, and they’re both pretty static, with the force and meaning of the words adding the dynamism. Fine for film, not so much for ice. If I’m going to see a show with the phrase ‘On Ice’ in the title, guess what: I wanna see some gosh darned ice dancing.

So what we get is something akin to a chase, with Anna and Elsa skating around the stage singing the song to one another. Just as with Do You Wanna Build a Snowman, it makes literal what the film conveys as metaphor: Elsa looks as trapped as she feels, unable to escape the spectre of her past and her worries about hurting her sister. It’s dynamic, it’s dramatic, it’s a damn near perfect alternative version of the film. Basically, it’s exactly what it should be!

Of course, no performance of Frozen would be complete without Let It Go, and it says a lot for the quality of the show that it’s actually one of the least impressive parts. That’s not to say it’s bad, because it’s not; if I tried to say it’s bad I’d have every little girl who sang every single letter of the song pointing at me and making weird noises like Donald Sutherland at the end of the 78 Body Snatchers remake. And that’s not really what I want.

My point is that there’s actually very little you can do with Let It Go. While many of the other songs need to be changed for the stage, Let It Go is a stage production already: a single character against a largely static backdrop singing their heart out. There’s very little you can change, and there’s very little you’d want to change. So that’s what we get here: the film, but with more ice skating. Which is cool.

(Look I got this far without making a bad ice pun!)

If you want to see a Disney ice show and, like me, don’t really know what to expect and fear you may end up looking a bit daft in a sea of squealing kids, just go for it. It’s a genuinely wonderful production that brings the characters to life in a fun, faithful way. It also reveals a lot about storytelling techniques, staging for maximum dramatic effect, and why cinematic mise-en-scene is fundamentally limited when compared to the sta— OH MY GOD ANNA, THAT’S THE MOST AMAZING DANCING EVER, I LOVE YOU!!!



Ariel: Strong Young Woman

The walls of my home are littered with pop culture art. I’ve got a lovely piece from Disney artist Brittney Lee, a Close Encounters print by Matt Ferguson, and a couple of Anna and Elsa prints from Mandie Manzano to name but a few. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke… I get over-invested in popular culture! It’s what I do. So when Disney’s art partners Cyclops Printworks announce a series of prints based on the work of Ron Clements and John Musker to celebrate the release of Moana, I get excited. Very excited.

Yeah, like that.
Yeah, like that. Thanks Anna

The pieces are gorgeous, as I’ve come to expect from Cyclops Printworks, but if I had to pick one, I’d go for JC Richard’s wonderful The Little Mermaid print. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, Little Mermaid is my favourite Clements/Musker film (indeed, one of my favourite Disney films of all time). Secondly, I think it captures in one epic image something that nearly three decades of writing about the film has failed to capture: that Ariel is a goddamn badass!

Here’s the poster…


LOOK AT IT!! It’s beautiful. The colours, the grandeur, the detail. Everything about it is… beautiful. But more than that, it captures what the film’s about: not just Ariel’s love for Eric, but her desperation to break free of the traditions of her people and forge her own life. Richard captures that wonderfully by putting her against Atlantica’s castle: the imposing representation of all those traditions.

More than that, it’s a beautiful reference to all the man-stands-against-epic-thing posters that have littered Hollywood for years.

I'm detecting a theme...
I’m detecting a theme…

What do all these posters have in common (apart from an enjoyment of mens’ backs)? They’re all about power: the power of an heroic man standing up against something epic, awe-inspiring, or scary. That’s what Ariel does in The Little Mermaid, and that’s why she’s no less an awesome hero, no less strong, than any of the men in these posters, or any of the other Princess or non-Princess characters we’ve seen in Disney films.

Ariel is probably my favourite Disney Princess, and I’ve decided I’m going to return to her in a special post leading up to the newest Princess, Moana. I may even do a little series focusing on my favourite Princesses and why I like them. Until then, consider this a little precursor. And a showcase of awesome art, and even more awesome mermaids.

How am I driving?

The Mouse House Movie Club is now six posts old, and I wanted to check in to see what people think of it. My aim when creating the feature was to make something inclusive and fun, a true club that everyone would feel a part of and enjoy. Problem is, it’s always difficult to tell when you’re in the middle of it, so that’s why I’m asking you guys what you think of it.

Does it feel like a fun club? Are the posts the right length, or are they too long (probably) or too short? Do they come off as too serious and is that off putting? Would you like more fun in them? And are you finding the series useful: are you inspired to check out films you haven’t seen before?

I’m always keen to hear feedback – both good and bad – so let me know.

Have a comedy chicken as thanks.


Mouse House Movie Club Goes Spooky: The Haunted House


It’s October, and that means Halloween. Hurrah for falling leaves, long dark nights, and lots and lots of pumpkins. And hurrah too for scary movies! 

Disney may not be known for their scary movies, but every now and then, they produce something utterly, brilliantly terrifying. Throughout October, this special strand of The Mouse House Movie Club will look at some of the very finest spooky Disney offerings, so you can add a little bit of Disney magic to your frightening fun.

Mouse House Movie Club Goes Spooky #2: The Haunted House

Early cartoon shorts were heavily focused on the synchronisation of music and action. They had to be really. With complex dialogue impossible in the silent era and music so good at selling an emotion (a sad moment, a laugh, a scary jolt), it simply made sense to match sound to action. Sometimes this simply meant having a wacky bit of score to underline a joke or a clash of cymbals to highlight something frightening, sometimes it meant essentially turning the short into a mini musical and having the characters interact with the music. The Haunted House is an example of the latter; it’s just not a great example.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this short, but the musical section of it is completely misplaced. The plot finds Mickey caught in a storm and stumbling into a creepy house to find shelter. Obviously, as the title suggests, he encounters ghouls, ghosts, and other scary presences while in there, and it’s a really enjoyable little gothic tale… until one of the ghouls asks him to play piano so he and his chums can have a little dance. Then it becomes a variation on the superior The Skeleton Dance (even borrowing animation from The Skeleton Dance at some points) and it loses a little something in the shift.

The Haunted House was the first horror-themed Mickey short, and before the skeletons start having a hoedown, it’s really darned creepy. I love gothic visuals, and from the very first shots of Mickey in the rainy, windswept countryside, this is full of them. Whether it’s the eponymous house moving from side to side as the wind blows it around or something as small as the way the rain moves, there’s something iconic and cool about The Haunted House when it goes full gothic. So much of what we’ve come to expect from gothic films was shaped by early films like this, so it’s exciting and revealing to rewatch all these years on.

The really exciting action comes, of course, after Mickey enters the house – pushed in there by a malevolent tree (what is it with trees and malevolence?). Ub Iwerks and Walt have a huge amount of fun imagining creepy situations for Mickey to get himself into, and the short executes them all perfectly, my favourites being the self-locking padlock, Mickey’s sentient shadow, and the barrel of bones he falls into at the short’s end. It’s a beautiful blend of comedy and gothic horror that works so well… until they all start dancing for a super long time.

Don’t let that put you off though. The Haunted House may not be an unqualified success, but it’s still a success and definitely worth watching by the light of a pumpkin with a toffee apple hanging out your mouth.

Until next time… sweet screams.

(So bad. Again.)