It has been quite a while since I’ve done a Disney Lessons post. So, I thought I would do one of Justin’s and Rhys’s favorite movies: Wreck-It Ralph! Justin absolutely loves this movie because it is about video games! He loves pointing out to me all the different references and Easter eggs in the movie. Rhys really loved the action and the characters, especially Ralph and Felix. He’ll do a “hulk-smash” movement for Ralph and mime a hammering motion for Felix. I love the movie not only because of the video game world, but also because of the lessons that are involved–it’s a great movie for children and adults alike. *Includes spoilers!*
I have loved Frozen even before I ever saw it! Mainly that is because I knew that Idina Menzel was going to be the voice of Elsa. Wicked is one of my favorite Broadways, and Menzel does such an amazing job with Elpheba’s voice–the power behind it. So, I knew she would be perfect for Elsa, not your typical Disney princess. And, after I watched it for the first time, crying my eyes out, I knew it’d become one of my favorite Disney movies. I know there have been many critics of Frozen for many reason, but I don’t really care. I think it rises beyond any of those criticisms and these lessons are the reason why.
True Love Isn’t Always Romantic Love
When Elsa accidentally froze Anna’s heart, the only cure was an act of true love. The characters assumed that to be true love’s first kiss. I mean, it works in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Enchanted, and many other fairy tale-like movies. However, what breaks the spell was Anna trying to protect her older sister Elsa from being killed by Hans. Throughout the entire movie, Anna always made excuses for Elsa. She always looked up to Elsa, even though she never really got to bond with her most of their childhood. She always trusted Elsa. She kept saying, “Elsa would never hurt me.” She cared deeply for Elsa. And honestly, Elsa felt the same about Anna. The whole reason she sequestered herself from people, especially Anna, is because she didn’t want to accidentally hurt Anna again. She cared so much for Anna’s health, that she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness for Anna. That is true love. And, you know what they say, “Blood is thicker than water.” (By no means is there a secret Disney agenda to support lesbian love–that’s ridiculous that people think that about Frozen…I mean, if that were true, than Disney would also be supporting lesbian incest! They are SISTERS!)
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Love is More Powerful than Fear
And, using the same concept (and video) from the previous lesson, we can learn that love is more powerful than fear. Elsa’s powers are controlled by her feelings. Her fear of her powers and the effects and consequences thereof caused the eternal winter. However, when Elsa showed how distraught she was at Anna’s “demise” and because of Anna’s act of true love, they realized that love can thaw a frozen heart. Elsa’s love was able to end the winter and bring back spring. Love is always more powerful than fear. Today is no exception, although we seem to have forgotten that, with ISIS and the current political campaign. But, love is the way of Christ, even. Love will always conquer. Be more loving and less hating and less scared.
Love is an Open Door
Yes, I know. Technically, this song is between the protagonist and the surprise villain. However, it has some good points. Anna had been isolated and lonely most of her life, and now she found someone invested in her. And, although the song lyrics really don’t have any depth to them, the title is what is most important. Love is an open door. Love leads to so many good things. Love is an opportunity for service. Love is an opportunity for growth. Love is an opportunity for adventure. Love is an opportunity for improvement. Love is an opportunity for happiness. Love is an opportunity for more love. It’s an open door.
True Love isn’t Always Perfect
When Anna and Christoff get to the trolls, they make the assumption that Christoff and Anna are together. This is all for comical reasons because we, as the audience, know they aren’t. The trolls begin to sing, “Fixer-upper” talking about all of Christoff’s weaknesses and negative traits. However, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t worthy of loving, or even, for that fact, marrying. Everyone will have negative traits. Everyone will have baggage. This song also relates back to the whole “what is true love” motif:
We aren’t saying you can change him
‘Cause people don’t really change
We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed
But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out the best.
That’s what marriage is–bringing out each other’s best, lifting each other up. The last lyric of the song is: “The only fixer upper fixer / That can fix a fixer upper is / True love.”
Don’t Rush into Marriage
Now, this one is a little hard for us, Mormons. We are notorious for quick courting periods, and even quicker engagements. Justin proposed to me after half a year of dating (which is actually on the longer end of the average dating period for college-aged Mormons) and we were engaged for only 4 months (an very average length for Mormons). However, Anna and Hans got engaged later the day after meeting (but then again, my college Bishop met and proposed to his wife in a period of three days! And, they had a handful of children, each who have served LDS missions and married in an LDS temple themselves…so sometimes, it works…).
But, what Disney was trying to do with this was to break away from the classic fairy-tale stigma of love at first sight. This is the only Disney movie that does it: Enchanted and Tangled also deal with this. Dating for getting to know the other person. Getting to see how you two click. Engagement is for getting to the worst, as well as the best of your partner, for serious life discussions and planning. Don’t necessarily rush into marriage–get to really know your significant other. Spend as much time with them as possible. But, when the timing is right, don’t delay.
Let It Go
This is the most iconic song of Frozen. It is so powerful. Elsa is coming to grips with her powers. She is releasing her inhibitions about it, and beginning to embrace it. This song for us could be about fears, weaknesses, flaws, mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, bad experiences, bad pasts, really anything. But the whole idea is to “let it go.” Move on with life. Don’t let others hold you back, especially their view of yourself. The only view that matters is how you perceive yourself. Test yourself. Push yourself. Explore. Try new things. Be brave. Be confident.
There are many more mini-lessons, but these are the most important and life changing. I love this movie for it. And, Idina Menzel, you will forever be my hero! The first time I heard this song, I just kept thinking of Wicked’s “Defying Gravity“.
What lessons did you learn from Disney’s Frozen?
Justin and I absolutely love Lilo and Stitch. We love singing the Hawaiian songs, and we love the cuteness of the movie. It is one of our favorites!
Lilo and Stitch is about about an evil alien experiment called Experiment 626, created by the evil scientist, Jumba. After being captured, it escaped and crash landed on Hawaii. Jumba and Earth Specialist, Pleakly, are sent to retrieve him. Experiment 626 ends up being adopted by Lilo and Nani from a dog pound. Lilo and Nani are sisters whose parents have recently died. Nani works at a luao restaurant and Lilo is very young and a little different. She doesn’t have friends and Nani is always stressed about taking care of Lilo, especially after getting fired. Social Services comes and threatens to take Lilo away from Nani unless she can find a stable job and train Stitch.
I don’t want to really give any more away in case you haven’t seen it…but here is the trailer
But, there are so many lessons to learn from Lilo and Stitch which is why we love it so much.
Cultural Heritage is Important
The Significance of Family
Broken Families Can Still Be Strong
There is Good in Everyone
Have you ever seen this movie? What do you love about it?
Another one of my favorite childhood movies was Hercules. As a young kid, I was a little obsessed with Greek mythology and would check out all the books my library had on it. I loved it and spent hours reading about the myths, legends, and genealogies. When I saw Disney’s Hercules for the first time, I immediately knew that it wasn’t accurate…I mean, Hera hated Hercules (it wasn’t her son…just one of Zeus’s “couldn’t keep it in his pants with mortal women” children). But, I loved the movie, especially the songs…I mean, it’s just about every red-head girl’s dream to have the voice of a soulful, passionate, black woman. But, as with all Disney movies, there are lessons to be learned with Hercules, lessons that will stay with you forever.
First, before I get into any songs, I just want to say how much Greek there is stuffed into this movie! The writers tried their hardest to insert culture, stereotypes, everything into it: “since they put the ‘pit’ in Pita bread”, “wanna buy a sun-dial,” “call IX-I-I,” “I haven’t seen more love in a room since Narcissus discovered himself.” I could go on and on. Every time I watch it, I pick up even more. And one of the little nuances I never realized until I was an adult was the counting issue. In the movie, a lot of times characters will say, “three words” than speak two, etc. Well, that’s because they are listing how many Greek words it would take to say that. For instance, Phil tells Hercules, “Two words: I am retired.” But in Greek, it is Είμαι συνταξιούχος. Two words.
They also do a pretty decent job of the mythology (with a few huge mistakes for creative license). In any Mount Olympus scene, you can very easily name all the Gods and Goddesses drawn according to their obvious characteristics: Dionysus is pink and has a wine glass, Aphrodite has a nice figure and blonde hair, Athena has a warriors helmet and an owl, so on and so forth. They include the Titans, even though have who they are incorrect. They include different heroes, even though they were all in different time periods, some long after Hercules. They include the Fates, the River Styx, and Cerberus for the underworld. They even try to incorporate the different adventures and quests that Hercules went on very subtly! But, again, take it all with a grain of salt!
Beginning of the Movie // Gospel Truths I, II, and III
In the very beginning scene, the narrator brings forth to light the most poignant theme of the movie, “What is the measure of a true hero?” It kind of resonates with The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s theme, “Who is the monster and who is the man?” However, he is interrupted and the muses, Goddesses of the Arts and Proclaimers of Heroes take over the narration. Well, it is their dominion. And, they are black, soul singers. Awesome! They give the background of Zeus and how he organized the world and stopped the Titans. We then see a party for the baby Hercules. Hades doesn’t like the baby, because he is upset with his position in the Underworld and wants to take over Olympus. This never happens or is mentioned in the real mythology, but God of the Underworld makes for a good villain. After being humiliated again at the party, Hades goes back to the Underworld and meets with Fates to see if Hercules will stand in his plan of a hostile takeover. They reveal to him that Hercules will. So, Hades decides to get rid of Hercules. But, as he asks his minions, “How do you kill a God?” You can’t…you have to make him mortal. So, he sends his minions, Pain and Panic, to kidnap Hercules, give a potion to turn him mortal, and kill him. But, they were interrupted by an old mortal couple, and Hercules never finished the potion. The last drop he didn’t drink allowed him to retain his god-like strength, and he was able to stop Pain and Panic (who had morphed into snakes) as a baby! And, that is one of the legends of Hercules! But in the last Gospel Truth, the muses mention how Zeus and Hera had to watch Hercules grow up from afar because only gods are allowed on Mount Olympus. As a parent, that hit me–how devastated would I feel if I couldn’t raise Rhys myself, but could only watch someone else do it for me?
I Can Go the Distance
Years pass, and Hercules is a scrawny looking, pariah of a teen. But, remember, he is super strong…and that strength is the reason he is a pariah. He always breaks everything and reeks destruction wherever he goes because he can’t control his strength–everyone hates him for it. His adopted father tries to cheer him up, but Hercules says, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t really belong here. Like I’m supposed to be someplace else.” This kind of relates back to Tarzan and the motif of adopted families and different cultures. But this song is more than just that. Hercules believes he has a bigger purpose, somewhere he belongs and something he can do. The first part of the song is more of a hope and a dream. He wants to believe he belongs somewhere else because he doesn’t fit in here. This can have a few Christian overtones: we believe in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven. He is waiting to receive us with open arms. But, anyone who has ever believed there is something bigger and better for them or that they would fit in better with another group or culture can relate to this song. One line in the song is, “I will go most anywhere to feel like I belong.” How many of us wouldn’t do the same? The feeling of being accepted is common in everyone. We long to be accepted. We long to be like others. We long to feel approved of and validated. So does Hercules, especially because he is different from everyone else.
He returns home and his adopted parents told him that he was found as a baby, with a medallion of the symbol of the Gods around his neck. Hercules then decides to go to the Temple of Zeus to pray to the gods to see if they have answers. Again, some Christian undertones here…we pray to our Father for guidance, to see what His plan for us is. Hercules begins singing again, only this time, he is more determined. He has a plan and has more power in his determination to go most anywhere to feel like he belongs. He can do it and will do it. My college actually had this song be the theme of one of our school years, to support students and let them believe they can do anything as long as they have determination and do their best.
Well, Hercules gets to the Temple of Zeus and starts praying. Then Zeus comes down in the form of the statue and tells Hercules the story of his birth and kidnapping. He then tells Hercules that he can rejoin his family in Olympus if he becomes a true hero. So, he goes off to seek Philoctetes, or Phil, to be trained as a hero.
One Last Hope
Phil is a grouchy old retired hero-trainer. He refuses to be Hercules’s teacher because all the other heroes he trained, Odysseus, Theseus, Perseus, Jason, Achilles all eventually were defeated and died (well, Hercules was a drunken fool tricked by his jealous wife into a wearing a poisoned cloak that tormented him so much, he built a pyre and burned himself to death, but that’s not Disney!). Hercules asks Phil if he ever had a dream that he wanted so badly. Phil said that he wanted to train a hero that was so loved, that the gods would put him in the stars. But, he says, “Dreams are for rookies.” He had been disappointed so much, that he gave up on his dream. Hercules was determined though. Phil didn’t believe. He had no hope. This served as an archetypal warning–you will turn into a grouchy, isolated, cynical person if you give up your dreams and hopes. Finally, after a lightning bolt sent from Zeus, Phil agrees to train Hercules. The entire song is a little cynical–he is giving Hercules his best shot, and claiming he is Phil’s last hope. But, Phil still isn’t convinced. But, as the song (and years) go on, Phil gets a little more confident. It is always nice to have someone, even someone as innocent and naive as Hercules (or Kimmy Schmidt also comes to mind) to help you restore faith in yourself and others.
After training is over, they decide to go to Thebes (compared to New York) to become a hero. On their way, Hercules saves Meg from a Water Guardian (a seductive centaur, which is a throwback to the myths as most centaurs raped women, even Hercules’s wife was almost raped by a centaur). But, what they don’t realize is that Meg is actually working for Hades, who owns her. Hades finds out that Pain and Panic never actually killed baby Hercules and time is running out before his plan to take over Olympus is put into action.
Meanwhile, Hercules and Phil arrive in Thebes and everyone is cynical of Hercules claiming to be a hero. They are sign seekers–they want someone who as already proven themselves to be their hero. Hercules says, “How can I prove I’m a hero if they don’t give me a chance?” How many of us have been burned or denied our dreams because we aren’t given chances? Justin felt that way after he graduated college and couldn’t get a job for a few months because he didn’t have any experience (that’s a rant for another post). He kept saying how if employers would just give him a test-run, a chance, they’d see how much worth Justin is and what he could bring to the company. Well, Hades sets up a trap for Hercules with the hydra, Meg leading him there. The townsfolk follow. But, Hercules defeats the hydra.
Zero to Hero
Just like One Last Hope, this is another montage. It shows how Hercules is slowly becoming a hero of renowned. He defeats different monsters, saves people, is paid for it, and becomes famous. There are a lot of Greek jokes in this song and a lot of allusions to the quests that the real mythical Hercules did. Hades is throwing all of these monsters to try and defeat him. But, the moral of this song is zero to hero. You can be a no-one, but become a some-one. Think about all the rags-to-riches stories we have in history. It can happen. Think of Malala, think of the Slumdog Millionaire, think of George Washington and other famous people. It can happen. You just have to believe!
Well, Hercules visits his dad again wanting to return to Olympus. Zeus tells him that he isn’t a true hero yet, Hercules has to look inside his heart to figure out how to be a true hero. Again, that is an important theme. Becoming successful and lauded is great and all, but it won’t make us the best we can be. We need to be reflective and be the best person we can be. Hercules is upset and needs to de-stress, so Meg takes him on a date, with Hades’s command to find out what Hercules’s weakness is.
I Won’t Say I’m in Love
But, with all Disney movies, there is a love story. Hercules and Meg begin to fall for each other. Before they can enjoy their first kiss, Phil interrupts and drags Hercules away to keep training. Now, Meg had sold her soul to Hades in the first place to save the life of her love. But, he betrayed her by running off with another woman, leaving Meg brokenhearted and in the clutches of Hades. So, she’s already had a lot of bad experience with guys. This song is her inner turmoil of trying to figure out if she actually does like Hercules and what to do about it. I dated/liked/crushed some jerks before I met Justin, so my heart was pretty guarded when we became friends. I’m sure there are many of us girls who have been the same, whether it be disappointing relationships, abusive relationships, no relationships and we didn’t want to be hurt again. It can be so vulnerable to allow yourself to feel love for another.
Meg finally admits that she does care for Hercules. Then, Hades comes asking her what his weakness is and she claims he doesn’t have one, but at the same time, it’s pretty obvious her feelings for him. So, Hades decides to use Meg against Hercules one last time, insinuating that Meg is Hercules’s weakness. And, as we all know with love and movies, especially hero movies, the way to harm the hero or get them to do what you want, is to hurt and/or threaten their loved ones.
Now, Phil had caught wind of this and tried to warn Hercules who got mad at Phil. Phil left. Hades put his plan into action. He appears before Hercules and bargained Meg’s life for his powers. Hercules, of course, agrees, but is brokenhearted when Hades reveals that Meg had worked for him the entire time. He leaves them both crying, frees the Titans, and successfully attacks Mount Olympus while sending a giant cyclops to get rid of Hercules. When Hercules sees, he decides to go against the Cyclops, knowing full well that he doesn’t have the strength to defeat him. He was doing what was right. It was his responsibility to protect the city and he was being a hero. Meg gets Phil to try and help him. Phil tells Hercules that dreaming isn’t for rookies, but “Giving up is for rookies.” Phil gives another lesson: No matter how hard it seems, don’t give up! Hercules is able to slyly defeat the cyclops, but Meg gets crushed by a column trying to save Hercules from being crushed by it. She is dying, but tells Hercules, “People do crazy things when they’re in love.” Hercules knows that Meg loves him and takes that to help him in saving the gods at Olympus. But, Hades escapes and Meg dies. Of course, true love comes into play in this movie. Phil tells Hercules, “There are even somethings the gods can’t change,” talking about Meg’s death. But, mad with love, Hercules says, “Yes, I can.”
A True Hero
Love conquers all. You don’t mess with heroes when you take one of their loved ones. It is pretty archetypal. Many movies shows heroes becoming more powerful with righteous vengeance. True love is willing to sacrifice anything. Hercules is willing to sacrifice his life to save the life of his true love. Just as the Fates are about to cut his life thread, he reaches Meg, proves he is a true hero because of the self-sacrifice, and turns into a God. Hades is defeated, Meg returns to life, and Hercules is brought up to Olympus. Zeus congratulates him saying, “A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Hercules then decides that he’d rather be with Meg than an immortal God. He didn’t believe that an immortal life was better than living one life with his true love, Meg. So he gives up his immortality to live with Meg.
A Star is Born
This is the ending song. Everyone is happy, everyone is saved. It is technically the credit song, and another Gospel-ish song. But, there are a few lyrics that prove these lessons of true love and being a true hero (accomplishing want you want).
Ever since I have read Othello in college and Hamlet last year to teach my 9th graders, I have wanted to do a post on Lion King, especially to talk about the character of Scar and how is not like Claudius, but more like Iago…but I’ll get to that soon. Christian morals and beliefs are also majorily threaded through this movie. So, I’ll focus on the Christian and Shakespearean influences of this film.
They are disgusted with this notion (they’re kids, after all). Simba mentions that tradition will be the first to go when he is king. Zazu says no. Nala mentions that Simba is future king. Simba then says that means Zazu has to listen to what he says. Here we see some similarity between Simba’s pride adn Hamlet’s pride! Zazu then says, “And with an attitude like that, I’m afraid you’re shaping up to be a pretty pathetic king indeed.” Here is Polonius’s disapproval for Hamlet! This whole song has Simba/Hamlet’s pride. It’s also a fun, catchy song. =)
Simba and Nala are able to ditch Zazu and get to the Elephant Graveyard. There, they are chased by 3 hyenas. When they are cornered by the 3 hyenas (or evil spirits, influences), Mufasa rescues them. This could be like God rescuing us from evil or even the Atonement doing it’s work–being “rescued” from sin. After walking the kids home, Mufasa keeps Simba aside. Simba steps into Mufasa’s paw print, which is significantly larger than his own. He has big shoes to fill to be like his father, just as we try to be perfect like Christ and Heavenly Father. We have big shoes that are impossible to fill. During the lecture, Mufasa mentions that he is disappointed, not mad. Heavenly Father is disappointed when we don’t live as we should, but he doesn’t hate us. There is also a lesson about being scared, brave, and reckless. After they make up, Mufasa says, “Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you … And so will I.” Seriously big Christian undertone there! Heavenly Father and his angels are there to guide us. If we pray, we can get advice and comfort from them!