History of Disney, Part 3 – The Silver Age

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This is Part 3 of my look back at the history of Disney animation. For more information on this project, check out the introduction. Part 1 focuses on the Golden Age of Disney animation, while Part 2 focuses on the films made during the Second World War.

The Silver Age of Disney animation refers to the films produced and released in the years between 1950 and 1967. There were eight films released in this period: Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), and The Jungle Book (1967).

The great miracle of the Second World War was helping America fully throw off the economic downturn of the Great Depression. Transitioning from a wartime to a peacetime economy provided the general public with an increased standard of living and, for the first time, invented the idea of the middle class. With renewed economic strength at home and broad diplomatic influence abroad, its no wonder why this century would come to be known by some as “the American century.”

And pop culture would just be one of the industries that arose in this time period. The middle class helped create a demographic that weren’t children but not quite adults: teenagers, listening to their rock and roll music and driving their fancy new cars to drive-in theaters. The new technology of television gained widespread appeal; 90% of American households had a TV by 1962. And one Mr. Walt Disney, having shepherded America through the war, was ready to grow into a true media mogul.

The low production costs of the Wartime films and their decent box office helped Disney recoup some of the massive debt he was in at the time from his pre-war films. But, it still wasn’t quite enough. Disney would need a big hit to help pull him out of hot water with the banks. When surveying the projects him and his team had been developing for post-war release, Disney decided to push forward a project with a sense of heart, one closest to Snow White in story and tone.

Cinderella (1950) was a smash hit for Disney. Both a critical and commercial success, Cinderella essentially bankrolled the entire 1950s for the Walt Disney Company, providing the much-needed capital to not only keep his studio at its present size but also to finance some more outlandish ideas, like entering television or building an amusement park.

In 1954, Disney and ABC partnered to produce Disneyland, the first title for what today is known as The Wonderful World of Disney and which is currently the second-longest running primetime program on American television. The show would be an important platform for Walt to discuss his upcoming projects, including the little theme park in Anaheim that would open the next year as Disneyland. The full scope of Disney’s expansions into television and vacation destinations is a little outside the purview of this series, but I’d be more than willing to dive more into it if people are interested. Regardless, it’s important to note just how necessary a financial hit like Cinderella was for Disney. It wasn’t solely responsible, but the ability to pay off debts and still have money left over made borrowing money in the future for projects like Disneyland much more possible.

With the proven success of feature animation in the postwar market, the studio shifted from shorts to feature films, pumping out four more before the decade was out, not to mention working on hybrid movies such as Mary Poppins (1964). Disney also continued to expand on TV, premiering such landmark series as The Mickey Mouse ClubDavy Crockett, and Zorro, and in the parks. Disney’s animators combined their artistic training with technical knowledge to become “Imagineers” and create some of the most beloved attractions, like the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean. On top of all of this, Disney envisioned a new community on the east coast, and quietly acquired acres upon acres of land near Orlando, Florida to create his theme park, hotels, and something called the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. In November of 1965, this would be officially revealed to be Disney World.

This era is noteworthy for its codification of the Disney aesthetic. While the animation style you probably associate with the term “Disney” was seen back in the shorts, this is the era where that style became formalized. This is the era of Walt’s Nine Old Men, a term he coined to describe his team of nine high-ranking animators who took on bigger leadership roles throughout the fifties and sixties. The techniques that would later be written down and shared by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life” (a great read for anyone interested in animation) were put to great effect in these films.

That’s not to say every film was the same. There was still plenty of room for experimentation in art direction and music. The Sword in the Stone (1963) was the first Disney film to feature music by Richard and Robert Sherman, the songwriters behind Mary Poppins and “It’s a Small World.” Their music is simple and obnoxiously catchy and has stayed in the public consciousness for good reason. Artistically, this is the era of Mary Blair, whose color styling on Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953) helped give those films their iconic look. Even still, films like Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Lady and the Tramp (1955) offer more stylistic interpretations of classic Disney aesthetics.

Now, before I get into the ranking, I feel it necessary to give a disclaimer. This era is really nostalgic for a lot of people. Even while watching, I found myself reliving a fair number of childhood memories through these films. It’s normal to get attached to media from our childhood. I just want to take a moment to describe what I’m looking for in these rankings. I am, at this point, halfway through film school. As such, when I watch these movies, I am judging them both on personal entertainment levels and also on how well they execute on story structure, cinematography, characterization, and other fancy film school ideas. This isn’t how most people view movies nor is it how most people should view movies. If a movie you loved is low on the list or a movie you didn’t like is high, don’t take this a slight against you or your tastes. Just read it as an expression of my personal opinion, which is motivated by different considerations than a regular moviegoer. With that out of the way, onto the list.

8. The Sword in the Stone (1963) – Has there ever been a really good King Arthur movie? Between the Guy Ritchie flop last year, and the meh adaptation of Camelot in ’67, it seems as though one of the most famous knights is box office poison. Sword in the Stone‘s biggest crime is that it’s boring. It’s just kind of aimless and things happen with little reason or consequence. The animation is also the worst in this era. The backgrounds aren’t interesting, the character designs are kind of ugly and the whole movie feels cheaply made. It’s a shame that this was how they decided to adapt King Arthur.

7. Peter Pan (1953) – This is the whole reason behind that initial disclaimer. If the line for Peter Pan’s Flight has taught me anything, it’s that people love this movie. I can see why. The swashbuckling adventure is fun and exciting for kids. However, everything around it is not that exciting. The characters are all really mean to each other. The lovely Tinker Bell is just a little too actively homicidal for my liking, while Peter Pan is way too conceited to be likable. The story itself is fine, and Captain Hook is the right level of camp you need for your villain, but the unlikable “heroes” bring the movie down.

6. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) – If Captain Hook was the right level of camp for Peter Pan, then Cruella is what happens when you turn camp up to eleven. She’s a joy to watch, but she is completely at odds with the rest of the film. She is so obviously, blatantly evil, that you don’t understand how the otherwise sensible characters would continue to put up with her. The movie comes alive with her, though, and feels a little dull without her. I like a lot of the ideas in this movie, but they weren’t executed as well as they could be.

5. Alice in Wonderland (1951) – It was a tough decision choosing between this and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. In the end, this won out for making less sense. The original book by Lewis Carroll laid out the groundwork for a style I’ll call “grade-school surreal.” You know, those weird books you read as a little kid that stick in your head until you don’t remember if they were even real or just something you made up. “The Phantom Tollbooth” springs to mind for me. That’s what this movie feels like, a G-rated acid trip that leaves you wondering if half of what you saw was real. At least it’s entertaining while it lasted.

4 Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Definitely the most interesting movie of this era visually. The art direction and style is gorgeous and lets the animators do some really interesting things with shots and lighting. It feels like a lovingly hand-drawn storybook. The story of Sleeping Beauty isn’t really about Sleeping Beauty, which can be tricky to deal with from a modern perspective. It’s a movie about the fairies and Maleficent, who is far and away the best classic Disney villain, using Aurora and Phillip as pawns in their power play. If the movie had framed itself more around this and focused less on the two “leads,” I think this could have been even better.

3. Lady and the Tramp (1955) – Screenwriters are taught that scripts revolve around conflict. This movie and Bambi are two really good counter-examples to that rule. If written and shot well, a film about someone living their life can be just as engaging as a story with a clear villain. This is one of the most beautiful movies to look at, and it’s kind of refreshing to have a romance that doesn’t start with the initial misunderstanding and hatred. It’s just a really sweet movie that can be enjoyed by everyone – the classic Disney formula.

2. Cinderella (1950) – This is classic Disney princess at its finest. Cinderella is without a doubt the focus of this movie and her world is rendered in a simply gorgeous way. I watched this movie a lot when I was younger and coming back to it really felt like going home. There’s something very calming about this film. It’s a reminder that sometimes good things come to deserving people and your dreams really can come true.

1. The Jungle Book (1967) – I just really can’t find anything to complain about or nitpick in this movie. Another one I could practically recite while watching, it’s just a really solid family movie. The score is one of the few that sounds very distinctive from this early period and the movie has this wonderful tone of mystery to it that helps sell the atmosphere. This isn’t quite as artistically well-done as some of the movies below it, but it strikes the perfect balance between a strong story and a well-done visual aesthetic.

All this momentum should have primed the Disney company for record highs and media dominance. However, all good things must come to an end. On December 15, 1966, Walt Disney passed away from complications due to lung cancer. The Jungle Book, released the following year, was the last movie with personal involvement from the company’s founder himself. This loss hit the world and the company right in the gut and left the studio asking how they would move on. We’ll discuss how Disney moved forward without Walt’s guiding hand in our next installment when we cover The Dark Age.

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Summer Updates

Hello everyone!

I took my last final for the semester this morning, which means that as of today, I am basically done with my sophomore year of college!

I’m looking forward to being home for the summer, where I’ll have more time to watch movies and work on some projects. I have some very exciting projects that I’ll be announcing soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, best of luck to all of you still in the midst of finals. Congratulations to everyone graduating and I hope you all enjoy the coming summer!

The History of Disney, Part 2 – The Wartime Era

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This is Part 2 of my look back at the history of Disney animation. For more information on this project, check out the introduction. Part 1, which focuses on the Golden Age films, can be found here.

The Wartime Era of Disney animation refers to the films that begun production during and were released shortly after the Second World War, in the years between 1942 and 1949. There were seven films released in this period: Saludos Amigos (1942), The Three Caballeros (1944), Make Mine Music (1946), Song of the South (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), Melody Time (1948), and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).

The bombs that dropped on Pearl Harbor in late 1941 shook every facet of American life. Though Americans had volunteered to fight in Europe and the British had been benefitting from lend-lease almost since the war began, by Christmas of 1941, the United States was officially at war with the Axis powers. For the next four years, Americans would fight and die alongside their Allied brethren across Europe and the Pacific and the hungry mechanism of war would stoke the fires of industry back home, inadvertently throwing off the last remnants of the Great Depression.

Every industry was affected by the war, including Hollywood. On one hand, war movies and propaganda could mean big business for filmmakers. The first American movie to feature Nazis as a villain was Confessions of a Nazi Spy, a spy thriller released almost four months before Hitler’s invasion of Poland officially kicked off the war. This tradition continues to this very day, with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk winning three Academy Awards almost eighty years after the actual Dunkirk evacuation. On the other hand, the war effectively removed the European market from the film world, and American films weren’t yet looking to Asia for their foreign box office boosts, meaning the business had to rely on domestic markets.

Disney was no stranger to these forces. World War Two is often seen as a turning point in the public perception of animation. What was once seen as childish entertainment now was recognized for its potential in telling more serious stories. It just so happened that these stories all had to do with recycling cooking grease and Japanophobia, but it was a turning point nonetheless. Disney produced a number of shorts for the U.S. Army both for showing in the U.S. and abroad.

However, the war also brought Disney to the same dire straits as other companies. The loss of the European market really hurt Disney’s more ambitious projects like Pinocchio and Fantasia. Not only that, after Pearl Harbor, a large number of Disney’s animators were drafted into service. There was really no financial reason not to work with the government to produce propaganda, and the majority of Disney’s remaining staff was by the end of 1942.

Only two of the seven films in this era actually came out during the war. The first, Saludos Amigos, was a result of Disney’s trip to South America as part of the Good Neighbor policy before the war. Backed by federal loan guarantees and featuring documentary footage of a modern Latin America, not just the indigenous areas many still pictured at the time, the film is credited as helping change public perceptions of Latin America at a crucial time. After its premiere in Rio de Janeiro in 1942, the film grew in popularity to the point where Disney produced their first sequel, The Three Caballeros, which premiered in Mexico City in 1944.

Postwar Disney had trouble recapturing this level of popularity, though. Most of these films are considered “package films,” collections of shorter films combined into one feature-length films, usually with some overarching framing device connecting them. This wasn’t the first time Disney had used this device as it was basically the conceit of Fantasia. However, it was a fairly easy way to pump out a lot of content with the short staff they had, even once many animators came back from the fight. This may also have been part of the impetus to move to live-action and combine it with animation, which Disney did with films like Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart. Unfortunately, the majority of these films performed poorly at the box office and garnered mixed receptions overall. Some of the shorts used in these films would find new life in repackaged anthologies once home video became more widely available, while others remained lost to the sands of time.

The driving force behind the Wartime films is necessity. These films were made in order to keep producing content and making money during an economically turbulent time. That’s not to say they were devoid of artistry or ambition, but the primary focus of these package films wasn’t to reproduce anything on the scale of Fantasia.

Honestly, it’s probably more accurate to speak of each short individually, as they can vary in quality between each movie. Some shorts are the classic Disney fare that would slot in well with classic shorts from any era, like “Casey at the Bat” from Make Mine Music or “Mickey and the Beanstalk” from Fun and Fancy Free. Some are more abstract and could fit in with the classical shorts from Fantasia, like Two Silhouettes” and “After You’ve Gone” from Make Mine Music, or Bumble Boogie” from Melody Time. Still others have been forgotten, either because of poor quality or other concerns. For the home video release of Make Mine Music in 2000, the entire opening sequence, “The Martins and the Coys,” was cut due to the comic use of violence and gunfire, and parts of “All the Cats Join In” were censored for containing mild female nudity. I really didn’t expect to be writing the phrases “comic gunplay” and “mild female nudity” in a blog post about Disney movies, but here we are.

Unfortunately, I will not be ranking each short individually, as that would make my list way too long. Besides, you didn’t pay to see each short on its own, you paid to see the whole thing, no matter how good or bad each individual short may have been. All that really matters is how good the movie was overall. Here are my thoughts on and rankings of the Wartime films.

7. Song of the South (1946) – Oh, Song of the South, I wish I knew how to talk about you. At this point, the controversial history surrounding this film is more known about than anything else, save “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” There is a time and a place to discuss the complicated history of race in American film and this movie’s place in it, but this is not the place and I am not qualified in any way to talk about it. What I will talk about is just how boring this movie is. It is an hour and a half of poorly-shot slice of life in the postwar South intercut with animated segments that are okay, but certainly not any of Disney’s greatest. It’s like Gone With the Wind without any of the memorable performances or lush production design, leaving behind one admittedly catchy song and a really uncomfortable feeling in the viewer. It’s for the best that you forget about most of this film before your next trip down Splash Mountain (which I also don’t really like.)

6. Fun and Fancy Free (1947) – This movie reminds me of those low-budget kid’s films you watched over and over again when you went to your Grandma’s house because she only had, like, three VHS tapes. It’s a movie people probably have fond memories of. As someone without fond memories, I can safely say it’s really not good. The shorts are okay, but much lower quality than I’d expect from Disney. The only lasting thing about this for me was the fact that the giant in the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment later appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which is the most nostalgic for me anything in this movie will get. Also, there is an extended sequence where a little girl is entertained by a man and two ventriloquist dummies at his house with no other guests. And by “extended sequence,” I mean “the literal framing device for one of the two short films in this thing.” It is exactly as uncomfortable to watch as it sounds.

5. Make Mine Music (1946) – Make Mine Music is the closest of the films in this era to really be considered a sequel to Fantasia. Every other film that tried just didn’t quite hit the same beats. Unfortunately, that means I have a lot of the same problems with Make Mine Music as I did with Fantasia. The good stuff is great, with “Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” being one of my new benchmarks for short films. The stuff that isn’t so great just drags it all down. Like Fantasia, pieces of it work exceptionally well and I think the more modern music works better overall. However, it still doesn’t escape just being a lesser sequel to the original.

4 & 3. Saludos Amigos (1942) & The Three Caballeros (1944) – These two are at a tie because they are fundamentally the same movie: Disney package films with a heavy focus on Donald Duck as a main character and Latin America as the setting. It all depends on your preferences: Saludos Amigos has a focus on travelogues and live action footage showing the animator’s process of working in Latin America, while Three Caballeros is just animated shorts. Not every short is the most engaging, but you take them as they come. Saludos Amigos is the shortest movie I’ll watch for this project at just over forty minutes. Three Caballeros is longer, but that just means we get more good and more bad. All in all, they’re fun, simple, and introduced me to my new favorite Disney character: Jose Carioca, the one Portuguese speaker in the whole canon and officially meu rico filho.

2. Melody Time (1948) – So, here’s the best time to state that my top five are all really close together. None of the films in this era are the most groundbreaking or classic, but they’re all generally charming and harmless to throw on for young viewers, with the two exceptions at the bottom of this list. If you compare this to my Golden Age list, my top five are all pretty much concentrated between Snow White and Fantasia in the “Fun and Enjoyable for Kids, Not Really Engaging for Adults Yet Not Horrible if You Have to Watch It” category. I bring this up now because Melody Time isn’t really that much better than Make Mine Music as my list would have you believe. They’re incredibly similar in terms of concept, and I just feel like Melody Time executed on that concept better overall with segments that are more enjoybale to watch. I may be a little biased as the opening segment “Once Upon a Wintertime” is used in a lot of Disney holiday specials, but I still hold firm that this is overall the more enjoyable of the two spiritual successors to Fantasia.

1. Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949) – You can tell the creative juices were running low at this point as this is the only film in this era without a strong framing device, and yet, it’s easily the best one. Both shorts are charming and wonderfully animated. The Wind in the Willows is odd but charming in that way that only very British stuff can be (like Narnia or books involving boarding schools). Meanwhile, Ichabod Crane is a Halloween staple for a dang good reason. It’s dark and atmospheric, comedic in unique ways, yet manages to still be actually scary towards the end. A real slam dunk to end off the era of package films for good.

Well, that took forever to get through. Honest talk, between schoolwork, mental issues, and relationship troubles these past few months, I’ve not really felt much desire to watch this handful of frankly mediocre films. But, that’s all in the past. The war is over (and has been for four years), the troops are home, and America is set to finally shake off the last vestiges of the Depression. And who better to be our entertainer in this time than the man with the mouse. In our next installment of The History of Disney, we’ll look to the future, to expansion and transformation, to television, cinema, and…theme parks? All this and more when we discuss the Silver Age.

The History of Disney: Part 1 – The Golden Age

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This is Part 1 of my look back at the history of Disney animation. For more information on this project, check out the introduction.

The Golden Age of Disney animation refers to the first few years of feature animation, from 1937 – 1942. During this time, Disney produced five films that are considered classics to this day: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942).

Disney entered this period as a complete underdog. Everyone and their mother assumed that “Disney’s Folly,” better known today as Snow White, would fail and with it destroy the dream of feature-length animation. After three years of grueling work with no guarantee of success, the movie premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in L.A. and the rest is pretty much history.

Not only was Snow White not a failure, it was a smash hit. It was both a critical success, praised for its animation and artistry, and a financial success, grossing nearly 8 million dollars in its original run. Adjusted for inflation, that would be almost 137 million dollars. Not a bad profit for a movie that cost 1.4 million to make. Disney had shown all the naysayers. After moving production to Burbank, they began to work on their next groundbreaking films.

Instead of reaching new heights, what Disney got with their next few films was a couple of critical darlings and commercial failures. Pinocchio was the first Disney film in to win the two musical Oscars, Best Original Song and Best Original Score, and only the second ever, being beaten to the punch by The Wizard of Oz the year prior. Fantasia, meanwhile, was and is still considered an artistic masterpiece and a brilliant marriage of music and visuals. However, both of these movies were expensive to make and neither brought in enough to cover their costs. As a result of this, Disney was forced to lay off several animators, fueling the underlying discontent in the company and leading to the animator’s strike of 1941, during the creation of Dumbo.

It was also during this strike that Walt took a trip down to South America as a goodwill ambassador at the suggestion of Nelson Rockefeller, head of the Latin American Affairs branch of the State Department. Removing Walt from the scene helped calm things down and led to the production of some films we’ll talk about more next time.

Due in part to the strike, Dumbo was made cheaply and quickly, becoming Disney’s second financial success. After the strike, a little over half of the animation staff remained at the studio, and irreparable damage was done to the internal psychology of the company. Bambi was also in development at this time and also failed to break even at the box office. The main reason for the failure of these critical successes was a little thing called World War Two, which effectively closed off the European market. Due to this and a variety of other war-related factors after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Disney temporarily shuttered feature animation, halting production on several films that would see the light of day after the war was over.

The driving force behind the Golden Age films is innovation. The techniques used to such great effects to create these memorable images had to be created during production. Because of this, they were created to fulfill the specific requirements, like Fantasound, the first stereophonic sound system attached to animation. The use of older techniques, like the multiplane camera, were also used to great effect, creating some of the most memorable images in Disneydom like the witch’s transformation in Snow White.

Through these films, you also see the development of the Disney style and the balance between cartoonish and realistic. The use of rotoscoping for more realistic-looking humans in Snow White and Pinocchio is effective, but kind of jarring from a modern perspective. The balance tips more towards cartoon for Pinocchio and Dumbo. Bambi manages to find a good balance between the two, making the animals look like real animals but still looking like cartoons. Disney was apparently unimpressed by the animals in Snow White and brought in animals from the L.A. Zoo as reference. The payoff is visible in the final product.

However, these movies are not perfect. Many of them are short, yet feel unnecessarily padded. Several shots across these films seem as though they were only intended to give the animators’ something to do or set up visual gags that have weak payoffs for the length of build up they are given. Very few of these movies last much longer than an hour, yet they tend to drag in places. Back in the 40s, the groundbreaking animation may have been enough to get by, but the weaker stories are pretty obvious today.

However, not all movies in this period suffer from these problems to the same degree. To wit, here are my thoughts on and rankings of the Golden Age films.

5. Dumbo (1941) – A cute film and colorful enough to distract younger viewers, but there are major structural problems that really hinder any enjoyment beyond the visuals. The whole movie feels like an Act One with zero Act Two or Three to follow it. What’s baffling to me is that the basic concept – outcast gains powers and becomes famous, then learns fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – is a pretty common story, and Dumbo hits a lot of the required beats, just in the wrong ways. If it had given more than five minutes to the latter part of that above concept, maybe it could have been something more. As it is, let’s just say there’s a reason the most memorable scene in this movie is the drunken hallucination.

4. Fantasia (1940) – I commend Fantasia for everything it does right, but I also completely understand how it flopped. Fantasia is not a movie, it’s a symphony, and your average moviegoer doesn’t necessarily want to watch a symphony. The various sections also fluctuate in quality. Night on Bald Mountain and Sorcerer’s Apprentice are still used in Disney marketing to this day (I was so excited to hear a snippet of the former at Disneyland last Halloween, you have no idea), while some like Rite of Spring are forgotten for a good reason. This is definitely Disney’s most ambitious film possibly of all time, and it’s fairly successful overall, if a bit dull in places.

3. Snow White (1937) – Watching Snow White after watching newer Disney movies in theaters is an interesting experience. It’s the main reason I wanted to do this series, to reexamine these old films and, in some cases, actually see them. Snow White is definitely a movie of its time, and while there are some pacing issues and the epilogue-as-ending is really weird to my structuralist mind, it’s an enjoyable film. Besides, how many family films are likely to scare the pants off the little kids in the audience? Definitely a fun one for babysitting and watching with nieces or nephews.

2. Bambi (1942) – By this time, the Disney aesthetic had been solidified and the Disney animators were able to experiment in some interesting ways. The real star of this movie is the gorgeous background art, designed and created in some instances by the underappreciated Tyrus Wong. They really help convey the tactile presence of the environments. It really feels like you’re in a cool, misty forest while watching it. Easily one of the more artistic films I’ve seen that isn’t trying to be artistic (cough Wes Anderson cough).

1. Pinocchio (1940) – My top two are mostly down to preferences. If you’re more of a visually focused person who can mind a meandering story, I’d recommend Bambi for movie night. I’m more of a story guy, so I’ll choose Pinocchio. Of all these early films, Pinocchio has the tightest handle on its story and characters. The movie never feels padded unnecessarily and nothing feels superfluous. It’s also just a really fun movie to watch, which is more than I can say for some other films on this list (cough Dumbo cough).

We end the Golden Age at a turning point for both Disney Animation and the world at large. Clearly the matter of defending liberty and democracy in Europe is more important than some silly cartoons. But, all these animators who weren’t off fighting for freedom still had to eat, which meant they had to make something. Strap on your sombreros and strike up the band as next time, we look at the Wartime Era.

Birth by Flame: Amazon Update

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Hello folks!

This is just an announcement to say that Birth by Flame is now officially available in both physical and e-book format through Amazon.com! I am beyond thrilled to finally have a physical book out there in the world. It’s a surreal feeling, but it is a wonderful feeling nonetheless.

If you do decide to purchase the book on any platform and read it, first of all, thank you so much! Secondly, it would mean the world to me if you would take the time to give it a quick review. For smaller authors like myself without access to a lot of marketing tools, reviews help my work reach more people, so any review is appreciated.

Happy reading!

Getting Political about Health Care and Discrimination

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Normally, I don’t like getting political on this blog. While this is a place for me to express my ideas, I also want this to be a place for my writing, first and foremost. When I have touched on current events, it’s usually at a point when I feel I must speak up. This is one of those times, so turn back now if you’re not into that. I promise I’ll be back soon with something lighter (the first Disney retrospective is coming, I swear!) Otherwise, here we go.

News broke today that the Trump administration is considering a new ruling that would allow health care workers to cite “religious objections” as a reason for not treating certain patients. In a recent Heritage Foundation report, current head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, specifically cited reasonings that directly target transgender and other non-binary individuals, though it takes little stretching, if any, to see how these rule changes could affect the rest of the LGBT+ community. For more information, read this article from LGBTQ Nation. A friend of mine on Facebook shared it with me, which is how I came to know about this story.

These rules, which in all likelihood will be a thing, are utterly disgusting. As stated in the article, similar rules have already been used to discriminate against LGBT+ individuals. In 2015, a pediatrician in Michigan refused to even see the infant daughter of a lesbian couple due to her “religious beliefs.” Let me repeat that: a licensed pediatrician refused to even be in the same building as her six-month-old patient because the child’s parents were two women. More information on that story here as reported by The Washington Post. Other rulings, as mentioned in the above article by LGBTQ Nation, have resulted in the death of several individuals over the objections of ambulance drivers, and the refusal of several hospitals to admit LGBT+ individuals who have suffered from violent attacks. This isn’t happening in countries often used rhetorically to shut down people talking about issues, folks; this is happening in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

These events prove that there is discrimination against this community on multiple levels. There have been incidents where LGBT+ people have been denied service, like the Kim Davis case or the more recent example of the bakery in Oregon. These always get pundits fired up about discrimination and moderates hand-wringing, asking “Where will this end?” Believe me, I know a couple people who I’ve had that exact conversation with.

To these people, I say, when you are denied a basic human right for characteristics you do not control, then you can complain about discrimination. Article 25, Section 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, and I quote, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Emphasis on “medical care” was mine.

I try to be open-minded to a lot of viewpoints and belief systems that aren’t mine. I recognize that I was raised in a specific environment and that environment has only offered me one way of seeing the world. But, my one rule when considering a belief system is this: any point of view that denies the humanity of another’s point of view should not be tolerated. That is what this is, an attack on people’s humanity.

The constant clamor against LGBT+ rights after the same-sex marriage ratification in 2014 tends to go along the lines of “You’ve already got marriage equality, what more do you want?” Here’s the thing: it was never about marriage equality. Saying the LGBT+ rights movement was about marriage equality is like saying the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was about the bus system in Montgomery or that the Latino rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s was about grapes. It’s never about the action, it’s about the intended outcome. Every movement for social, political, and civil rights has been about getting the dominant culture to respect the humanity of those pushing for rights. These movements go in stops and starts, but ultimately, we need to keep pushing.

As an example of a larger goal to push for, may I suggest making sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in the United States? There is currently no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as there is for race, sex, and religion, among others. There is a patchwork of state protections, however, there is no protection against housing discrimination or employment discrimination in twenty-eight states, and no protection under hate-crime laws for sexual orientation in eighteen states and gender identity in thirty-two. Efforts were made under the Obama administration to address some of these issues, but that can only buy eight years of protection at most. There was some promising news on this front, as just this past year the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that sexual orientation could be included under the definition of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (read more here) but that didn’t really seem to amount to much. Without more sweeping protections, we will have to fight this battle every so often. I’m not saying that this would instantly solve all the problems facing this community, but it would sure help stop new ones from being made.

Next time, we’re going to talk about something a little lighter. Thank you for listening. Hopefully you learned something today.

Birth by Flame Updates

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Hello everyone! Welcome to 2018! I wish all of you a pleasant year ahead with good things in your future.

I’m also excited to announce some more news about Birth by Flame! The book has now been accepted into Premium Distribution over at Smashwords. What this means is that Birth by Flame will be distributed through online retailers like Barnes & Noble and Apple. If you prefer reading on an e-reader, you now have more options with where to purchase Birth by Flame.

I am also working on physical publishing and the results are looking promising so far! I will keep you updated when this becomes an option. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Birth by Flame Re-Launch

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Hello everyone!

I am beyond excited to announce that, after many long months of work, my novel, Birth by Flame, has finally been re-released! To commemorate this momentous occasion, we also have a shiny new cover, courtesy of my amazing friend Gaby.BirthByFlame_v1_coverimageshadow

*sniff*  It’s so beautiful…

Birth by Flame is available for purchase at Smashwords.com.

I first started to develop this story in various forms in 2011. As I grew up and matured throughout high school, I kept rewriting and developing the world more and more. The initial ideas grew more ambitious and, after discovering self-publishing, I made it a goal to publish my novel by the time I submitted my college applications. I made that deadline on September 30, 2015.

For the rest of senior year and into college, I had that book in my back pocket but didn’t really push it too much. The whole drama of ending one chapter of my life and beginning another pushed it out of my head. By the time I came back around to my novel, however, I wasn’t really a fan of it. Like most creatives, all I could see were the mistakes. Worse, it felt amateurish and juvenile. I’m not so full of myself as to say I matured immensely in a couple months. That said, I felt I could write a more nuanced story than the one I was selling. Add to that the feeling of too many half-formed ideas to pick one to focus on and very few sales, I felt like it would be a good idea to devote myself to reworking this book to make it hold up to my new expectations. As of today, December 27, 2017, that resolution was actually achieved.

Does this mean I may hate it in another two years? Yes, but hopefully I’ll be able to move on from this and onto other works that can help rectify any new problems I may find. However, as it stands, I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve created. I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful new year. Here’s to 2018!

The Winter Festival

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The Winter Festival (or gieda eyozehüaz ün süogem, the “happy day of winter”) is one of the most important folk holidays for the people of Deralan. During the last full moon before the last month of the year, people gather in their city squares to celebrate the past year with food, music, gift-giving, and dancing in the streets.

Most winter holidays on Earth usually originate from a particular religious observance. The Winter Festival is less focused on a specific event in Deru theism; instead, its significance is attributed to both the physical and spiritual connotations winter has for the Deru people.

It is said that the first winter happened at the end of the First Age, the age when only gods ruled, when the goddess of the moon went on a journey to save her husband, the god of the sun, from dying and plunging the world into endless night. She left a piece of her essence to safeguard the home of the gods, creating the twin moons of Deralan as they are known today. However, despite her success, she was not able to stop new spirits from forming in the chaos: gods of darkness, of ice, of cold, of famine. In short, winter was unleashed. The sun god, though restored, was unable to keep burning constantly, and so night was created and the Second Age, the age of mythical heroes, began.

In less mythological and more geographical and socioeconomic terms, winters in Deralan can often be harsh, with temperatures dropping below freezing and brutal snowstorms, especially in the south and west of the country, burying the landscape. For many poor farmers and artisans, winter means struggling with both cold and hunger, relying on the fall harvest to maintain them through the long night of the year.

The New Year’s Festival (gieda eyozehüaz ün u küzëftem zëcodus, or “happy day of the new year”) is a more important holiday for the Deru, as it marks the return of spring and the beginning of the planting season. The Winter Festival grew out of local celebrations of winter, showing solidarity with each other as hard times approached by giving thanks and throwing one last party before the bitter cold truly sets in. As such, the actual festivities during the festival vary greatly from region to region and town to town, though certain similarities can be found.

All celebrations involve the community coming together in a public square and sharing food. In small towns and villages, this usually amounts to a big potluck. In larger cities, local cooks and shopkeepers will set up stalls alongside regular citizens to sell special holiday treats. Neighbors and family members may also exchange gifts of food with each other to celebrate the holiday. Food is the customary gift during the Winter Festival, as the lack of food is a major concern in the coming months.

No festivities are complete without music and dancing during the Winter Festival lasts long into the night. Simple folk dances are performed, often encircling large bonfires lit as a reminder of the warmth of spring that awaits them. In many places, fireworks light up the night sky as a final sendoff to the old year. Imagine if New Year’s Eve celebrations happened in early December, or if New Year’s Day were celebrated in March.

Early Winter Festivals were celebrated during the first full moon of winter and developed as extensions of harvest festivals. After the war for independence, King Ühüëyan reformed the calendar and assigned finite dates to major holidays. He divided the year into six months of about sixty days each, and moved the Winter Festival from the beginning of winter, in the middle of the fifth month, to the last full moon of the fifth month. This was done to provide space between it and the fall harvest, as well as keep the date from moving year to year. Before the calendar, most people marked the first day of winter by the first snowfall, caring not for when the solstice came. As such, Winter Festivals could vary wildly from year to year depending on precipitation and temperature. Now, the Winter Festival would always be at a secure date and, even better, always at least a month before the spring equinox which marked the New Year. Many rural communities still use their old reckonings to mark the Winter Festival, but the practice is slowly being phased out or modified to align with the royal calendar. Winter may have started a few weeks back at this point, but the true cold usually doesn’t begin to set in until the last month of the year anyway, so the date and the weather usually align.

During these festivals, it is customary to greet all fellow revelers with a hearty greeting of “Süogem eyozehüaz!” or “Süogem celüaz!” These translate to “Happy Winter!” and “Blessed Winter!” respectively. On this day, I would like to wish all of you a happy and blessed winter as well. This year has been an exciting one for me with many ups and downs, and I hope each and every one of you reading this can enjoy this holiday season to its fullest.

Winter Carols

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Many cultures around the world have their own version of a winter holiday. From Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to the Lunar New Year, people around the world take time during the winter to come together and celebrate with friends and family. No celebration is more famous than the Christian celebration of Christmas. Today, on the eve of Christmas, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite Christmas carols, translated into Deru. I haven’t posted a lot about Deralan in a while, so I decided to post some fun Deru stuff for the holidays, and in preparation for a big announcement in the coming days. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, enjoy this Christmas classic: “Silent Night” or “Güodem düëhüš.” This will be accompanied by a transcription into IPA as well as a direct translation of the Deru.

Güodem düëhüš, güodem celüaz

/gwodεm dweɪhuʃ gwodεm tʃεlwaz/

Quiet night, holy night

Giešëm zëcü zëpodas

/gjεʃeɪm zeɪtʃu zeɪpodas/

All is bright

Dieboızudem o müzo eyan a izuma

/djeboɪzʊdεm o muzo εjan a izuma/

Circling the mother and the child

A idëzum celüaza eyan jizeraza

/a ideɪzʊm tʃεlwaza εjan dʒizεɾaza/

The holy and soft child

Düogisan zu dezgan celüaz

/dwogisan zʊ dεzgan tʃεlwaz/

Sleep in holy peace

Düogisan zu dezgan celüaz

/dwogisan zʊ dεzgan tʃεlwaz/

Sleep in holy peace

Güodem düëhüš, güodem celüaz

/gwodεm dweɪhuʃ gwodεm tʃεlwaz/

Quiet night, holy night

Jëdiepoıon hëfejëdažuni je u išütëm

/dʒeɪdjεpoɪon heɪfεdʒeɪdaʒʊni dʒε ʊ iʃuteɪm/

Shepherds fall at the sight

Hüorižon zipëni ün celute

/hwoɾiʒon zipeɪni un tʃεlʊtε/

Stars flow from heaven

Yagüodıron celuni ‘Alelüya’

/jagwodɪɾon tʃεlʊni alεluja/

Gods sing ‘Alleluia’

Gisyowan a Kuristu

/gisjowan a kʊɾistʊ/

Christ is born

Gisyowan a Kuristu

/gisjowan a kʊɾistʊ/

Christ is born

Güodem düëhüš, güodem celüaz

/gwodεm dweɪhuʃ gwodεm tʃεlwaz/

Quiet night, holy night

Izuma ün celun, zipë ün sühodwon

/izʊma un tʃεlʊn zipeɪ un suhodwon/

Son of God, star of love

Hüorižon zipëni ünidem ižuhem

/hwoɾiʒon zipeɪni unidεm iʒʊhεm/

Stars flow from your face

Ko kogeda küdižwü celüaz

/ko kogεda kudiʒwu tʃεlwaz/

With a morning of holy beauty

Jisus, gisyowan a üdüohižun

/dʒisʊs gisjowan a udwohiʒʊn/

Jesus, born the king

Jisus, gisyowan a üdüohižun

/dʒisʊs gisjowan a udwohiʒʊn/

Jesus, born the king

Gieda ün Kuristu eyozehüaz! Merry Christmas, everyone! Tomorrow, we’ll have some more festive holiday traditions from Deralan to discuss.