Tag Archives: disney

Friend Like Me

Robin Williams passed away, and while this is a blog about music, not movies, I felt like I needed to commemorate him on here in my own way, somehow. As a Millennial, he was a big part of my childhood. Mrs. DoubtfireFernGully: The Last RainforestJumanji, and, one of my favorites, Aladdin.

Aladdin is my absolute favorite Disney movie. I loved the animated TV series too (even if Williams wasn’t in it due to an ugly dispute with Disney). I like to see the Aladdin show at Disney California Adventure whenever I get the chance (something I highly recommend for anyone who’s never seen it). I’m still eagerly awaiting for the big time Aladdin musical (currently on Broadway) to go on tour and make its way here to LA. I had the movie on VHS, of course. I’m pretty sure I even had a flip-book that was the “Friend Like Me” sequence where Genie is dancing with his own pair of hands. Oh, and I most definitely had the soundtrack. The CD case is sadly broken into two pieces, but I still have it! Completely uncensored, I might add.

I realize now that even when it was just his voice, Robin Williams had a way of making you smile. “Friend Like Me” is one of the funnest Disney songs ever. It’s nearly impossible for me to hear this song and not sing along. Of course, part of that credit goes to the late and great Howard Ashman. But I can’t imagine anyone besides Williams bringing his words to life. There’s such a warmth to his voice, like a funny uncle who knows just how to make you feel loved and special. I think he was every Millennial’s favorite funny uncle-by-proxy. He was a professional clown, without the make-up and red rubber nose. A real-life cartoon character.

I wish I could think of more to say. The sudden announcement of Robin Williams’s passing just kind of took the wind out of my sails. I feel like I’ve said all I can say for now, though I’m sure I’ll be able to think of more later. Great man, great actor, great voice, great song. He will be missed.

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Pogo

To be honest, I was kind of holding out for another iamamiwhoami release. For a few days there it looked like we were going to be getting something new. Alas.

So what is it this week? Pogo!

If you haven’t heard of Pogo before now, you either don’t know too many people who are hardcore Disney fans or you don’t have enough friends into obscure electronic music. If you watched the above video, you get the general idea behind his work. He basically takes fraction-of-a-second-long recordings from movies and turns them into full-length songs. He even puts together the videos in the same spirit.

“UPular” was my introduction to Pogo. I think I discovered it not too long after the movie came out. Within the same year, for sure. Anyway, it was definitely my gateway drug to all his amazing Disney-themed tracks. It just blows my mind when I think about how much time and effort it must take to put these songs and videos together. “UPular” remains one of my favorites though, not just because it is so well-crafted, but also because he manages to perfectly capture the spirit of wonder and adventure so prevalent in the film. (I will say Up is in my top 3 favorite Pixar movies, though, so I may be a little biased.)

“Bloom” is definitely my other favorite. As soon as I hear the harps at the beginning, I just get this swelling happy, whimsical feeling. The sound bites and video clips revolve around Disney princesses (and leading ladies) and that beauty and grace that they carry around them that just commands the attention of everyone around them. The song overall just captures that innocent, romantic Disney princess spirit. It’s dreamy and cheerful, just like they are.

I know some people can be thrown off by Pogo’s work, and I can see how they would be. I understand how it could be difficult for the brain to try to comprehend a song made of mixed up bits that one must assume make up a general theme rather than casually listen to a song that makes it clear for you. Okay, that sounded kind of snooty, but I mean I really do get where you’re coming from if that’s what you think! What you have to do to enjoy a Pogo song is turn off the logical part of your brain and just let your emotions react. It’s not a Rorschach test of sounds (though sometimes that logical part of your brain jumps in and makes up words and phrases). It’s really impossible to sing along to. You can’t enjoy it if you try to make too much sense of it.

Instead, just try to tune in to the way a good Disney film makes you feel. That’s what Pogo sets out to capture and share. Seriously, go and listen to his Disney playlist! You’ll remember the way Disney movies made you feel when you were a kid, and then it’ll all make sense.

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The Princess and the Frog

Minor spoilers for The Princess and the Frog.

Ever since I got access to the Frozen soundtrack, I’ve been on a Disney kick. While Frozen had an enjoyable soundtrack, it fell a little short of the greats: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and, one of my favorites, The Princess and the Frog.

Yup, even though the movie didn’t perform as well as hoped and expected, I still think The Princess and the Frog soundtrack – and the movie itself – is greatly under-appreciated and underrated.

First of all, it covers an incredibly diverse range of sounds, which includes New Orleans jazz, soul, gospel, blues, and zydeco. Second, the lyrics are clever, deliberate, and catchy from the very first listen. Finally, the lyrics would be nothing without the singers, who bring life and character to each and every song on this album.

The intro song “Down In New Orleans” does a great job of setting the tone, kind of in the way that “Belle” did in Beauty and the Beast, although that song was more about the main character than the setting. They’re still both great mood-setters for the story that follows.

Next up, we’ve got “Almost There” which I think may have been the only Disney princess song up to that point that’s not just about what the character wants but also how they’re going to get it. To me, it’s got all the gusto of The Lion King’s “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.”

“Friends On The Other Side” may be the best Disney villain song since “Be Prepared,” though thematically it reminds me of “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” The spoken asides are fantastic and really help define Dr. Facilier as a smooth-talking trickster. Keith David’s voice was made for this song, period. He makes it one of my favorite villain songs, if not one of my favorite Disney songs ever.

“When We’re Human” is another fantastic character defining song. It does a great job of showing how different Tiana, Naveen, and Louis are, even while they all sing the same melody. A melody that makes me want to get up and dance, by the way.

Next up we get some spirited Zydeco music with “Gonna Take You There.” This is the song that amazes me most with its ability to blend the musical genre with that classic Disney sing-along charm that just sweeps you up into its lyrics.

“Ma Belle Evangeline” is a real treat. Is this the first Disney love song exclusively sung by a male character about a woman? Sure, Gaston was singing about wooing Belle, but it’s safe to say no one was rooting for him the way everyone was rooting for Ray’s unrequited love for Evangeline.

“Dig A Little Deeper” is the soundtrack’s uplifting answer to the earlier “When We’re Human.” Seeing as how Mama Odie is the modern (well, sort of, considering the movie takes place in the 1920’s) version of the fairy godmother, it’s a clear parallel to Cinderella’s “Bippity Boppity Boo,” although the characters can’t just get what they want because they want it. It’s got a great message for that reason.

The soundtrack comes full circle with a reprise of “Down In New Orleans,” with a soulful performance by Anika Noni Rose. It makes you truly believe, as she sings, that “Dreams do come true in New Orleans.” It’s the classic Disney ending, with all the bells and whistles and fireworks exploding at the end, done New Orleans style.

The Princess and the Frog soundtrack is full of New Orleans spirit. If it could be summed up in one sentence, it would definitely be “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”

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Let It Go

MINOR SPOILERS FOR FROZEN AHEAD

I’m going to make what may be a wild proposition about the hit song “Let It Go” as sung by Idina Menzel in Disney’s latest animated film Frozen. One that I haven’t seen anyone else make so far and has kind of surprised me, so maybe that’s what makes me think my proposition may be wild.

I propose that “Let It Go” is an LGBTQ coming out anthem.

No, really. Furthermore, I think it might be an answer to Lea Solanga’s “Relfection” in Mulan.

Really really. Where “Reflection” was a song about hiding one’s true identity out of fear of what others may think, “Let It Go” is about, well, letting go of all those fears and anxieties and just not giving a damn what other people think about you. Let’s break it down.

Frozen is about two royal sisters, Anna and Elsa. Elsa, the older sister, has the power to summon and manipulate snow and ice. Anna loves her sister’s powers, and Elsa loves using them to make her younger sister happy, until she accidentally (and almost fatally) injures her. The girls’ parents decide that Elsa’s powers are too dangerous and tell her she must keep them a secret, while taking Anna to a clan of trolls who erase the memories of her older sister’s powers.

Fast forward several years. The sisters’ parents have died (as you do in a Disney movie…) and it’s the day of Elsa’s coronation. The sisters get into an argument and Elsa accidentally reveals her powers to pretty much the entire kingdom. Accused of being a witch and a monster, Elsa flees the kingdom and decides to live a life of solitude in the mountains. But rather than seeing this as an exile, she sees this as freedom – freedom to express herself as she truly is without judgment or shame.

DO YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING?? Anyone who has struggled with their sexual orientation or gender identity (and the views of others – especially family and even more especially when they are less than accepting) should see a rainbow flag waving in the background. I know I do. The first time I saw the movie (and scene) it was right there when Elsa literally lets her hair down.

Let’s follow along with the lyrics:

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

I haven’t heard Disney lyrics so clearly about being in the closet since Lea Solanga sang “Somehow I cannot hide/Who I am, though I’ve tried.”

But then this happens:

Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

That’s when she decides that people are going to say what they’re going to say, so close the door on them, leave them far behind, and let it go, because when you do you’ll be free to live life to the fullest.

And, as my fiancée pointed out, “Here I stand and here I’ll stay” is totally the Disney version of “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it.”

Maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places or talking to enough people about it, but I cannot believe there isn’t more talk about this song’s meaning. Frozen turned out to be a pretty unorthodox Disney movie, if not for Elsa’s character, the “big reveal” ending/resolution, and of course “Let It Go.” If you want to feel empowered and validated for who you are, give this song a listen and wave your flag.

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