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Beauty and the Beast (2017): A Parents’ Guide

Beauty and the Beast (2017): A Parents’ Guide

 

The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast is pretty unnecessary.  It is a sometimes shot-for-shot remake of the beloved 1991 Disney Animated feature (fun fact: Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – Up and Toy Story 3 have been nominated since).  Does its redundancy make it any less fun or fabulous? No, it does not.

It was super-fun to see the world of this beloved Disney classic reinterpreted in a live-action setting. With this new update, we also get an extended look at the palace and its inhabitants before and after the transformation.  We also get a tiny bit more of a backstory for the Beast, my guess is that this was done to make him more sympathetic and to tone down the whole Stockholm Syndrome situation.  We get to see Belle as an inventor, and as a caring teacher to children in her village. I very much appreciated the fleshing out of one of my favorite Disney princesses. They even threw a few new songs in, while keeping all of the old favorites.

This new imagining of Beauty and the Beast also introduces Disney’s first obviously gay character. While Gaston’s sidekick Le Fou was definitely coded gay in the original animated film, there is no doubt about it in this film.  While it was acknowledged with a wink and nod throughout the film, there is a blink and you’ll miss it moment at the end that confirms Le Fou’s preferences in a totally lovely and kid-friendly way.  I’m so excited for all the gay kids out there who finally get to see themselves represented (however briefly) in a Disney film.

So what should parents be aware of? I thought it was interesting that although I knew the plot of the movie, I found that seeing real-live people in the same peril was much scarier.  Seeing a real man being chased by live wolves was pretty intense, as was seeing a real group of villagers attempting to raid the Beast’s castle. The frenzy caused by Gaston wanting to kill the Beast may be hard for younger viewers to understand and may make a good talking point for after the film. I had actually forgotten what a rough song “Kill the Beast” was until I saw this again, and it was another instance where I think the cartoon provided a nice buffer that is absent in the live-action version. There is also a few instances of gun violence and a moment where the Beast says that he is “damned”.  Gaston dies (look, it’s not a spoiler, this movie has been out for 25 years).

So what age is Beauty and the Beast good for? Beauty and the Beast is okay for ages 6 and up.  If you child is younger than 6 or is very sensitive, I’d wait to watch this one at home.  It also has a relatively long running time of 129 minutes, something to keep in mind before taking small bladders to the theater.

One last warning: Be Our Guest is just as much of an ear worm as it was in 1991.  I haven’t stopped singing it since I saw the film three days ago!

Can I Take My 5 Year Old to Finding Dory? A Parent’s Guide

DoryFinding Dory is the much anticipated sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo.  This time around instead of a parent searching for their child, we have an (adult) child – Dory, the sidekick Blue Tang from Finding Nemo – searching for her parents.Dory Title

There isn’t much that’s objectionable in this film. There are no bad words, and no one is especially mean.  There are some daring escapes, and moments of peril, but they are resolved quickly and without too much scariness.  One scene that may be hard for viewers is a first-person shot of Dory as she is trying to make her way somewhere and gets lost when she forgets the directions. It was gut-wrenching, though it’s resolved quickly and rather triumphantly.

Like most Pixar films, you can expect some very emotional moments. Through a series of flashbacks, we see that Dory has dealt with her memory loss from a young age. We see the fear her parents experience as they wonder how their child will navigate in the world without them. As the parent of a special needs child, there were some moments that hit so close to home, it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. The filmmakers handled this sensitive subject with tact and care. While Dory’s disability is rightly a huge part of her story, it’s not the only part. She is surrounded by people who love her and care for her because of her optimism and ingenuity.  It’s a refreshing take on people/fish with  cognitive differences.
Kids of all ages will enjoy Finding Dory, which opens June 17th.

 

For a behind the scenes look at the making of Finding Dory, check out the Parenting Geekly interview with Supervising Animator Michael Stocker here.

Behind the Scenes of Finding Dory with Supervising Animator Michael Stocker

behind thescenesDory

Michael Stocker, Supervising Animator for the upcoming Disney Pixar film finding Dory, loves a challenge.  Listening to him talk about the speed bumps on the road to creating Finding Dory was as interesting as hearing him gush about the successes.  

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I got to spend a little bit of time with Stocker yesterday afternoon as he began his press tour for Finding Dory, which will hit wide release on June 17th.  His enthusiasm for the art of animation and storytelling in general, and for this project in particular, made this one of the most fun interviews I’ve done in a long time. He really opened up about some of the fun, behind the scenes making of Finding Dory, and Disney and Pixar in general.

Stocker attended Spokane Falls Community College, where he obtained degree in Commercial Art and Graphic Design. He took one film course while there, but says he was hooked and knew he wanted to work in film. While working at Boeing as an illustrator, Stocker saw a television commercial for the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit and knew at that moment that animation was where he wanted to be. He enrolled at CalArts (a school founded by Walt Disney), and secured an internship at Disney Animation as an “Inbetweener” on The Lion King.  The inbetweener, he explained to us, does all of the animation in between key frames that are drawn by the animator, and makes clean, sharp lines. “I would help the animator sort of put those drawings in and then I would put in this nice, clean line”.   He transitioned over to digital when he worked on The Incredibles at Pixar, which he said is one of his favorites because he had the opportunity to work with director Brad Bird for the first time.

When asked if he preferred hand-drawn animation or digital he replied “A good animated movie – 3D or Hand Drawn is a beautiful thing”  The story is the guiding factor, he says, and a good story can be achieved with both mediums.  He cites the beginning of Up, where we see Carl and Ellie’s story unfold, as a pivotal moment in animation “That is an amazing bit of cinema because it’s no words, it’s just music, it’s just images, it’s just animation. Up to that point I don’t know if people really thought we could tell a story about a subject matter like this, and then that happened. It was just beautiful.”

His newest project, Finding Dory is the much-anticipated sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. The long wait between films created interesting technical dilemmas. The technology has changed so much in the past decade, that none of the assets from the previous movie could be used. The animators had to create the characters from scratch, a daunting task given how familiar people are with them. The animators would frequently get very close to finishing a character model, but realize through tests that something was just “off” and have to start again. On top of that, animating fish and other aquatic life was hard in and of itself. According to Stocker, every animator brought onto the project had to spend hours observing a real Blue Tang and Clownfish. They then had to create a small animated piece to show they grasped how the fish moved. Finally, they had to start completely from scratch and animate a line or two from the movie using the movements they observed.

FINDING DORY - HANK (voice of Ed O’Neill) is an octopus. Actually, he’s a “septopus”: he lost a tentacle—along with his sense of humor—somewhere along the way. But Hank is just as competent as his eight-armed peers. An accomplished escape artist with camouflaging capabilities to boot, Hank is the first to greet Dory when she finds herself in the Marine Life Institute. But make no mistake: he’s not looking for a friend. Hank is after one thing—a ticket on a transport truck to a cozy Cleveland facility where he’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful life of solitude. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

FINDING DORY – HANK (voice of Ed O’Neill) is an octopus. Actually, he’s a “septopus”: he lost a tentacle—along with his sense of humor—somewhere along the way. But Hank is just as competent as his eight-armed peers. An accomplished escape artist with camouflaging capabilities to boot, Hank is the first to greet Dory when she finds herself in the Marine Life Institute. But make no mistake: he’s not looking for a friend. Hank is after one thing—a ticket on a transport truck to a cozy Cleveland facility where he’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful life of solitude. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

One of the biggest challenges the Finding Dory animation team faced was creating a new character, an octopus named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neil). Starting right from the design stage, Hank was difficult. Real octopuses have their mouths underneath them, not a set up that would work well in an animated film. Stocker also found himself using a hybrid 3D/hand drawn combination since creating Hank’s tentacles in 3D for every test shot was too time consuming.  The effect, makes Hank’s tentacles mesmerizing to watch, was born from frustration.  “I”m proud of Hank. I know how hard it was for the animators to animate that character and then make it feel organic and believable. When he’s on screen you can’t help watching him.”

Stocker sums up his job like this: “What we try to do is find those real moments. If you can capture them, regardless of fish, toys, cars, that’s kind of where you’ve invested yourself in these characters so much and then you hit a nerve. And there it is, like boom!”

 

Finding Dory opens in theaters everywhere on June 17th.