Remember who you are
Few days ago, I was preparing a podcast about Disney (holistic approach which only made me realize that there is sooooooo much to say here!) and I asked my mum what was my first Disney movie ever. I wanted so bad to believe it was The Lion King! But in my memory, it was either that or Pocahontas, which is a great choice too. But deep down, it’s always The Lion King. So, I asked mum and she just looked at me and said: “The Lion King. And after that it was The Lion King again and again! For months!” Somehow it made me feel so good and happy! I realized though, that it’s not just TLK teaching you to remember who you are; Disney carries this message within every film. I promise you that in the end of this text you will know exactly who you are.
Now, to fully understand the Disney phenomenon, I decided to write a series of posts on the subject. This one will be about the brothers and to give you a context, about my childhood memories. Buckle up, kids!
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
The Walt Disney Company was founded on October 16th 1923, as “The Disney Brothers Cartoon studio”, by two brothers – Walt and Roy Oliver. It was renamed to its current name in 1986. By many it is called the indisputable leader in American (and global) animation industry. But with all the glory, comes equal amount of controversies (like Hakuna Matata™).
In early 1923, Walt Disney created his first cartoon entitled Alice’s Wonderland (based on Lewis Carroll’s novel). Show featured child actress Virginia Davies and on screen she interacted with animated characters. After Walt moved to Hollywood, he tried to sell his 12-minute-long cartoon to various companies. Eventually, M.J. Winkler Production approached Disney to sign a contract for 6 Alice comedies (with possibility to pitch further series).
After success of Alice series, Walt came up with new idea – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It was produced by Winkler Pictures but distributed by Universal Pictures which was the ultimate owner of the product. After completing 27 Oswald short stories, Disney lost the contract and began road to financial recovery.
Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, then worrying won’t make it any better.
Creating mouse character on a train to California, was a breakthrough moment. Initially named Mortimer and renamed to Mickey (and we should all thank Walt’s wife – Lillian for this one!) was and still is the most recognizable cartoon in the world. Ub Iwerks, talented animator and cartoonist gave Mickey Mouse refined design. On November 18th 1928, Disney’s first sound film, Steamboat Willie was released. And what a treat it is!!! 7 minutes of absolute wonder, with sound and pictures synchronized. It is still deemed as culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. Reception of Steamboat Willie gave Disney the kick to push boundaries of animation even further.
The film was distributed by Celebrity Productions and its initial run lasted two weeks. Disney got $500 for a week which was quite much for that time. It played ahead of the independent feature film Gang War. While Steamboat Willie was an immediate hit, Gang War is completely forgotten today.
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
Mickey’s success and fame were the starting point of never-ending stream of ideas, possibilities and opportunities for Walt. In 1932 he signed an exclusive contract with company Technicolor to produce his cartoons in color! So, with the means he could easily get to an end. Production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in 1934. Walt’s great plan was to create first full-length film and 3 years later, Snow White had its premiere. On December 21st 1937, in Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, with nationwide release in February 1938. Movie earned $8 million during its initial release and held the record of highest-grossing film at the time. Among many recognitions and prizes, Walt Disney received a honorary Academy Award for it.
And so the great Disney adventurous cruise began, studio worked full-time on films like Pinocchio (1940, with current 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942).
Disney in Awards: 22 Oscars from 59 nominations, 2 Golden Globes Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award.
The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.
Enough of the history lesson. As fun as it was to learn about Walt and Roy, it’s time for the childhood bit that I promised. Let me tell you about Disney movies, the animated ones, that influenced young Julie and inspired her to be someone… Good? Kind? Fluffy? Someone better.
And of course, I will kick this off with The Lion King. My absolute number one, my go-to Disney movie on a rainy evening. My relationship with this film deserves a separate post and I think I promised it already – if not, here it goes: soon! But yes, since it was the first movie I ever watched (both from Disney and in general), why not give you a little taste? Many of you know that this movie has incredibly special meaning to me. I don’t know if there is another movie (yeah, not even Star Wars and you already know what SW means to me, so… Imagine) that would be so significant.
To be honest, I don’t remember my first watch, but I asked my mum about it and she said that I watched it during one take with no breaks for snack and bathroom. My second question was if I cried, but mum said that at first I didn’t. That I only made sad faces, whenever Simba was sad. Obviously, because I am an emotional masochist, I fell in love with this story, a seed was planted that day.
What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?!
You wonder what is it about The Lion King that got me so hooked? Except from the emotional connection? Well, I really like the plot and characters. Every time I played around with my kindergarten friend, I wanted to be Nala (her go-to was Queen Amidala, so we got along pretty well). I loved the colors of the animation and how they set the mood… I mean, look at Rafiki’s drawing! Which, as you can see, became inspiration for my first tattoo.
But also – the songs. I told you about this already – both music and songs got the recognition they deserved. And you know what I love about Disney? And Poland, by the way? We do one hell of a dubbing for animated movies. Polish version of Disney songs are absolutely out of this world, take Can you feel the love tonight as an example. Give it a listen, doesn’t it sound good? And the lyrics, oh my!!! There is this one line that I love:
pokonać troski swe,
przetrwać posród burz…
Which could be translated to:
To love someone it means,
overcome your worries,
survive in the midst of storms…
And English version of this lyrics:
the night’s uncertainties
Love is where they are…
See my point? Our voice-actors and translators did damn good job, and that goes without saying. And I love both versions, my Disney playlists are full of them.
Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.
The Lion King carries all set of messages and lessons for us. Starting with always remembering who we are, no matter what. As a kid, who doesn’t yet know what that means it was something profoundly deep, sacred almost. I understand it few years later, of course. Next lesson is the Hakuna Matata, which is both good and bad philosophy – it’s perfectly fine to let go of things that we have no power or control over. But using it on a daily basis to everything? No, that’s a no from me. It’s just being careless and well, stupid.
But other than that: The Circle of life so beautifully and simply explained to children, the importance of being honest with yourself, the impact of your actions on lives of others… The Lion King truly is a goldmine.
For me, this TLK will always and forever be on top of the list; it’s most meaningful, tearing-up, emotional and heartwarming movie I’ve ever seen. I was blessed with opportunity to see the musical version, in Hamburg for my 18th birthday 9 years ago. And you know what? I’m sorry, my future husband BUT: Can you feel the love tonight will be our first dance (and I don’t really care which version – Elton’s or from the movie). And, if there will be a chance, this is the ultimate tune for me to walk down the aisle. And look, I know this should be our decision, but trust me – I know better. At least in this case.
He wants me to be steady, like the river. But it’s not steady at all!
For a minute there I was pretty scared, that TLK wasn’t my first Disney movie. Which, in general, wouldn’t be a bad thing, of course not! It was either that or Pocahontas, so film about badass Native American woman! My first memory with this one is… A plastic glass I got as a gift from someone. It was with Pocahontas and it was kind of like double-layer, with tiny colorful leaves (all the colors of the wind), so each time I sipped from it, the leaves moved! Another thing I always have in my mind were the blue-ish landscapes. Pocahontas was super colorful to my young eye; it was bright and intense!
As a kid, I didn’t realize the importance of some storylines – like cultural differences, the conquering, misunderstanding and being “destined” to marriage only. Watching it as an adult gives you new perspective, because suddenly you pay attention to the serious stuff. For me, it was a tragic love story that didn’t end the way I wanted to. Later on, I realized that it made a lot of sense for Pocahontas not being with John, but… That’s something that occurred to me as an adult. And today, let’s focus on the child’s emotions.
But I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name.
Watching Pocahontas was always a pure pleasure and I think it’s safe to say that this is my second favorite Disney story. The way it shows rough beauty of nature, wisdom of people who live with world on good terms… And of course, the songs, that in polish are simply masterpieces. Give it a listen! You know, kid’s movies are really the best, because for little ones it is always with dubbing and I think it sounds good in every language.
I am really grateful that Disney carries on with female empowerment message – with Mulan and lots of other films, showing that women are good enough and worth of every single bit of appreciation! Look, I’m not going full feminist here but just think about this: our world is tricky and sometimes we, the girls, are told that we’re not strong enough to be the CEO. Or firefighter, soldier… What a bullshit, come on. Pocahontas proved, that women are so much more than just girl to be married, that they can decide of their own fate. And that is something that grew inside me, at first unconsciously. But in years I was able to fully understand the importance.
Though now that I think about it… Overall, it is classified as romantic drama. So, I guess I was right with tragic love story stuff!
There’s a snake in my boot!
There are literally over 700 Disney movies to talk about, but this post would be a book. So, Toy Story. Let me tell you a birthday story: it was my 7th b-day party and I had few friends over at my house. It was my best friend from kindergarten, my brother’s best buddy (and yes, I was super in love with him) and my other friend with her brother. The night before, my mum made a yogurt cake on soft cakes, with peaches in jelly… But none of that was important – after the cake and changing into comfy clothes, we could watch Toy Story on VHS of course!! And what a ride it was.
I asked my friends what would be the first Disney film they would show to their kids and… With no hesitation or doubt, we all answered Toy Story. Why? Well, it’s a great buddy comedy (Captain Obvious here: a buddy film is where two people are thrown into adventure, road trip, quest… Typically two drastically different personalities, eventually finding a way with each other), that teaches us that a. you gotta respect your toys, b. it’s okay to freak out about new situations, c. you’ve got a friend in me!
To infinity and beyond!
Woody and Buzz became best friends in the end, showing everyone that two different characters can do wonders, if they cooperate. That sometimes, it is good to swallow your pride and help someone out. Road to their friendship was a rocky one, but that’s how the best friendships start!
What I really love about this series is that it actually made full circle on us, kids. The story wrapped up perfectly, giving us beautiful closure. What made me feel a little bad though was a fact, that something so… Important, so big in my life ended – I could put this part of my childhood to bed.
But damn, I really don’t want to.
Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.
The one movie that always warms my heart is One Hundred and One Dalmatians – the animation itself is just wonderful. So edgy with pencil lines all over it, yet so soft and cheerful. What other word could be used to describe a movie with 99 puppies?! And let me just say, that Cruella de Vil is one of the worst, yet the best Disney’s villain. But overall, it’s a great story and what I would call “a core Disney animation”. Both technically and with main plot.
I often come back to it. When I was little, we had a dalmatian. His name was Walker (my brother was on Texas Ranger phase) and he grew so big in the matter of weeks!!! I really wanted to name him Pongo, but well. I got to name our cat Nicolas (after Nicolas Cage, of course). Anyway, he was such a rogue puppy, I can’t. My parents had to build like kind of walls for him to stay away when we had guests. He really was one dummy pup.
But I also remember that one summer at my grandparents’ I spent a lot of time in the local library. And I found out, that there is a book! Book written by Dodie Smith and it’s just as fluffy as the film. So, whenever I feel really bummed out, especially in the fall/winter season, I make hot chocolate and some comfort food (which recently became baked sweet potatoes or toast from the oven) and I am all set. Remember kids: if you need fluff, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is your go-to.
Then, it seems we’ve crowned the wrong fool! The only fool I see here, is you.
But as a kid, there were some Disney movies that I was… A little afraid to watch, like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And not because Quasimodo was deformed, hell no. Do you remember the festival scene, where they tied him up and threw food at him? This was one of the scariest moments in my entire childhood. This is why I watched it maybe two times, it was just super sad to me. Really upsetting and frightening.
Same with Bambi which broke everyone’s heart. And one more from my experience: The Fox and the Hound with “Goodbye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end. But in my heart’s the memory, and there you’ll always be…” Oh, I watched it last night and man, how it touched me. Tod is my fox animal, being so confused when she left him in the woods. But The Hunchback of the Notre Dame has this darkness in it. The colors are toned down, it’s not a happy movie, not a happy story. I guess Disney wanted to keep it real, even with kids – life is not all sunshine and rainbows all the time. Hakuna matata is great when there are things over which you have no control and no way of changing them. But when shit gets serious… You gotta step up and face the challenge or consequences.
Or maybe they knew all along. Maybe this was Disney’s goal from the start – to create movies that you can watch at any age, just with different perspective? Perhaps they were designed to evolve with us, to teach us a new lesson every time? Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When we watched to see Onward, there were no kids in the theater. Just us adults, minding out Disney business. Maybe we need those movies more than kids do?
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
When I think of animated Disney movies now, I picture myself wrapped in blanket, with warm lights dimmed to a cozy level, hot tea or more preferably cocoa, tons of pillows on bed. Rainy day outside, it’s weekend and finally some time to relax. My cats walking all over me, to find the best spot for a nap. And finally… Choosing a childhood movie, that used to brighten up each day back then.
Kids these days say that they don’t like school. They don’t realize that Disney is a life-long membership, with lesson for every occasion! I know, I know – those movies are so fun to watch every time, that this is different, another way of learning. But still – they stick in your head for years. Some stories will anchor down in the corner of your mind, some will briefly visit, some will be forgotten in a matter of seconds.
But one thing will always remain: Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Haha, seriously though – in other words, lot: never forget who you are. CEO or not, it doesn’t matter if you are a hot shot in your office or this quite one, secretly changing people’s life. Do you think that 6 years-old-you would be proud of who you are today? If the answer is no, you better go watch a Disney movie.
Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.
I do realize, that I am merely scratching the surface here. Disney heritage is huge and I could write about it for hours, but I hope that this will be a good start. Taking this stroll down the memory lane was a fun thing do to. I watched plenty of Disney, but those 3 films were most memorable for me.
And you know what? There is a lot that I don’t like about Disney current policies, the scandals and drama but they were essential to my childhood. And for that, I will be forever grateful!
If this is not enough for you… Good. There is more to come!!!