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Jim On Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
November 29, 2002
Jim thanks Disney for years of wonderful memories.

Thanks for the Memories

Around Valentine’s Day of this year, I was waiting in line at the Disney Store, and on the screen in the back of the store was a montage of Disney romances--Aladdin kissing Jasmine, Pocahontas with John Smith, and Snow White being carried away by her prince. As I watched these scenes, it reminded me what a spectacular legacy there is in the Walt Disney Feature Animation department. Just watching these scenes again brought to memory the strong emotional reaction I’d had to all these wonderful stories and characters. During this Thanksgiving season, as an all new animated feature soars into theaters, I want to give my sincere thanks to Walt Disney Feature Animation.

For me, as I’ve said before, there are actually few Disney films that made an impact on me as a child. This is simply because my parents were not big into movies, so it was on a rare occasion when we were treated to One Hundred and One Dalmatians or Cinderella. One of my very earliest Disney memories was watching Peter Pan. As Tiger Lily awaited her fate inside Skull Rock, my mom tells me that I sat in the theater watching her plight with my hands clutched together at my chest, wonder in my eyes.

I have a feeling that, while my hands weren’t clutched, I probably had the same expression on my face as I watched Treasure Planet for the first time.

One vivid memory is of watching The Emperor’s New Groove at a special sneak peak the Saturday before it opened. I was with a really good audience, and when Pacha’s daughter says, "Well, which is it? That seems like a pretty crucial conjunction," I laughed uncontrollably hard. This was topped by Yzma’s charge through the door, down the hill, and into the pinata.

The first time I saw the Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met segment of Make Mine Music, it was part of a separate video release. I remember thinking that the story itself was creative in an odd sort of way. Who else would give us a singing whale who wants to be an opera star? But despite this absurdity, when Professor Tetti-Tatti harpoons poor Willie, I felt like part of my own heart died with him. Sure, Willie now sings in heaven, but it doesn’t make this a happy ending. Who would have ever thought they’d be touched by the story of a singing whale?

Beauty and the Beast will always have a special place in my heart. When it was first released, I saw it eight times in theaters (a number I have never duplicated). I was only in ninth grade then, but every time Belle walked into town, I couldn’t wait to hear that song. Every time she reprised it, I couldn’t wait to see her run to the edge of the hill and belt it out again. I still look forward to that song more than anything in that film.

The first time I saw Sleeping Beauty, I had just bought it on video the second time it was released. I had always seen the amazing pictures of those backgrounds, but to see them moving and to see the characters living in them, I was amazed all over again. I laughed so hard when the three fairies were making the dress and cake. I still laugh thinking about Fauna folding in two eggs and wondering what tsps are.

When The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released, there was a lot of talk about how it was darker and more mature than Disney’s other films. I didn’t really know what this meant until Frollo stood before his fireplace. It was a musical moment to beat all musical moments. As he stares into the fireplace and envisions Esmeralda in the flames, my eyes opened wide as I thought, "So that explains his motivation." With its mixing of haunting visuals and genius story-developing lyrics, Hellfire is still one (of the many) highlights in the film for me.

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I always look forward to the queen’s transformation into the old hag. As the room spins about her, we see the nightmarish images of her transformation. It still makes my spine tingle.

So, in this Thanksgiving season, I want to give my thanks to the thousands of people who have contributed to the forty-two amazing films from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Treasure Planet. Each one is entertaining and unique in its own way.

And while the department may (or may not) be tossed into turmoil, I want to thank all the current artists at Disney. After all the politics, after all the industry buzz, through all the devastating lay-offs and salary cuts, after all the box office takes, you are still producing some of the greatest films of our time. Whatever people may say, the reality is that I had a high school student who wrote an essay on how The Emperor’s New Groove is the funniest movie ever. Whatever people may say, the reality is that kids want to be Pocahontas for Halloween. Whatever people may say, I still laugh like crazy as Lilo tells Cobra Bubbles that she gets punished five times a day.

I’d break into singing Thanks for the Memories, except I can’t sing.

But still, thanks for the memories.

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-- Jim Miles

A graduate of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Jim Miles is an educator, play director, and writer.  In addition to his column for LaughingPlace.com, he is currently revising an untitled literary mystery/suspense novel as well as a one-man play.  He is also producing an industry reading for an original dramatic musical work, for which he has written the libretto and lyrics.  After having created theatre curriculum and directed at the high school level, he writes and directs plays and skits for his church. 

Jim On Film is published every other Thursday.

The opinions expressed by our guest columnists, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future of Disneyland and the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted November 29, 2002

Copyright Jim Miles. Licensed to LaughingPlace.com.