My First Tearjerker

January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Disney’s Lilo and Stitch was both my first memorable movie theater-going experience and the first tearjerker I’d seen. I very clearly remember craning my neck to watch that little blue alien land on a Hawaiian island next to my dad because we were sitting in the very front row (we had a late departure because I couldn’t find my jacket). My dad has always been a huge kids’ movie fan but this time he was sort of unaffected by the unconventional retelling of the ugly duckling. Lilo and Stitch, although not my favorite Disney movie has a lasting imprint on my childhood and revisiting it I was able to find much more literal meaning, and maybe less emotional meaning, than before.

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What Was the Kind Warrior Really Fighting For?

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

“One day I’ll show this work to the public. Until then, I’ll keep living it.”

According to Ned Zeman writing for Vanity Fair in The Man Who Loved Grizzlies, Timothy Treadwell wrote this to a friend weeks before his death.

To me, this strips away the mask Treadwell used to justify his actions in the wilderness of Alaska for 13 summers of his life. He claimed his personal mission was to be the “kind warrior,” protect these wild beasts, and to befriend them because he had a special capability that allowed them to connect on a very human level. When he wasn’t playing with foxes or swimming with grizzlies Treadwell traveled the country bringing free lessons to children about grizzlies and their habitat. Throughout the Werner Herzogg documentary I was under the impression that Treadwell had been releasing some of his footage of bears (I assumed edited and put together so it made sense) on these educational tours. However, the footage that Werner Herzogg used was all raw material that was unexposed to the public.

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Getting Inside Timothy Treadwell’s Mind

November 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had expected Grizzly Man to be an in-depth documentary about a man’s relationship with the bears he lived with and therefore his take on the life of a bear. For some reason I had expected this to be totally normally and follow the rules of many stereotypical Animal Planet documentaries. What I was presented with today for the first thirty minutes of this provocative documentary, was instead a rough depiction of an extremely unusual way of living and society’s reaction to it.

Timothy Treadwell was definitely a strange guy – but I guess that is sort of a requirement when spending 13 of your summers living amongst grizzly bears that could turn on you at any moment. The way he talked to the bears in his baby voice and the way he confidently described his safety to his camera, the only thing connecting him to real civilization, was much more eerie than I had anticipated. Werner Herzogg’s film making skills definitely added to this mysterious tone that drove the movie and the skepticism of members of the Alaskan community made it even more real for me. Most people interviewed were unable to describe how they thought Timothy might think or his reasons for doing it, but they all agreed that he was passionate about his intentions to protect and sacrifice for these wild creatures.

I think that this documentary, while being a demonstration of society’s reaction to an incredibly outlandish occurence, is also a deep dive into the psychology of one individual. The entire time whether Timothy was trying to swim with a bear, get his hat back from a fox, or teaching children about the bear’s role in the wilderness, I found myself searching for his motivation to do this. One of the most shocking things is that the summer he was killed he tragically brought his girlfriend along for the vacation with the grizzlies. How was she willing to put herself through that? Did they really think they’d be able to survive? I can’t wait to learn more about how Timothy thinks and what allowed him to go against human instinct and attempt to coexist in the Alaskan wildlife with the dangerous grizzlies.

An Intersection of the Unknown

September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the things I found most surprising about Bambi is that when Bambi was little he asks his mom why he hasn’t ever met any other deer. This was surprising because it seems like in a classic Disney movie they would have grouped the types of animals together as families. Instead Bambi’s playmates as a kid were Thumper, Flower, and other small woodland animals that seemed to live near their thicket. Interestingly, the first time Bambi has exposure to other animals of his kind and meets Faline, is in the meadow.

The meadow has very important significance in this movie because it is one of the only places of intersection in the entire movie. The meadow is a great symbol of the intersection of creatures in this movie because it is vast, open, and unknown. The first time Bambi goes to the meadow his mother has to teach him how to behave there. There are certain rules and regulations that are new to Bambi because this is the first situation where he has experienced societal restraints. This shows the power that humans have on the animal world because when they are deep in the forest with no worries they are completely free, but the second they come within contact of man their actions must be restrained.

Another thing that I found interesting about the meadow is that it is the backdrop for Bambi’s first encounter with animals of his own kind. The movie’s depiction of the meadow makes it seem very daunting and mysterious because of his lack of contact with it. It seems to me that a meeting between friends would happen in the comfort of one’s home instead of a foreign, possibly dangerous place. Ultimately this has the effect of making Thumper, Flower,  Friend Owl, and other small creatures seem like family to Bambi instead of other deer. This juxtaposition of meeting someone new while experiencing a new place helps demonstrate the feelings of children when they are exploring new things. It is interesting that Disney chose to cross species lines when creating “families” of characters but I think it did a good job of heightening the sense of nervousness for children when put in a brand new situation.

What Ever Happened to Ubbe Ert Iwwerks?

September 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I was reading the passages about Walt Disney I became increasingly interested in his partner, Ubbe Iwwerks… and no not just because he has an unusual name.

As I tried to imagine the beginning of Walt Disney’s world-renowned, I realized that it would be an amazing feat to have done alone. It seemed like the process took so much creativity and innovative thinking that it wasn’t possibly done by one man. So I wanted to learn more about who Disney’s companions and walls to bounce ideas off were and Steven WattsThe Magic Kingdom pointed me in the right direction. It appears that Ubbe Iwwerks (later shortened to Ub Iwerks) was there from the get-go and actually essential in Disney’s future success.

Disney and Ub worked together at Pesman Art Studio in Kansas City when they were only 18. The arc of their friendship continued through many other jobs such as working as illustrators for the Kansas City Film Ad Company and as founder and chief animator respectively at Laugh-O-Gram Films. It seems in this retelling of their history that Disney was always the instigator and Iwerks was just following his path. This is made more complicated by the fact that they were great friends, which must have created a power struggle within the company.

As I did more research on Iwerks’ impact on their emerging success in the cartooning industry I was interested to find that Mickey Mouse was not just the product of some inspired brainstorming at the Laugh-O-Grams studio, but instead entirely Iwerks’ creation. Disney’s company was floundering because Oswald the Lucky Rabbit had been turned into a new character with the help of Universal Pictures and Disney’s lack of control. He needed a character, and needed it quickly, and his trusted old pal was able to create Mickey Mouse – the bedrock for the Disney franchise.

I find it incredibly compelling to learn about this forgotten character in the retelling of the incredible history of Walt Disney. It appears as if Iwerks struggled to create his own company when Disney moved on without him and while he remained in the business, it doesn’t seem like it was ever the same. Without Ub there never would have been a Mickey Mouse. Where’s all of the credit he deserves?

The Media Loves a Natural Disaster

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nature is all around us, every moment of our life, and yet it doesn’t get quite the recognition it deserves. For instance, just flipping through the New York Times there are entire sections devoted to style, technology, and even cars but not one devoted to Mother Earth, something so essential to our existence. However, the few times there’s a window of opportunity to sneak in some news about nature, it’s always a catastrophe.

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