Moana Makes a Big Splash This Thanksgiving


 This week, Disney’s new princess movie, Moana, hit the theaters. While it doesn’t follow the conventional format of a traditional Disney princess movie, it is a amazing experience suited for the whole family. The movie follows the story of Moana while living with her tribe, from babyhood to adolescence. Moana has always dreamed about sailing and has felt a calling to the ocean. However, her parents warn of the dangers of sailing past the reef, and refuse to let her try. But after talking with her grandmother and making discoveries about her people’s past, she sets sail on a journey to save her island and the entire planet. Along the journey, she receives help from the self centered demigod, Maui, and her pet chicken, Heihei. They bond on their quest throughout many adventures and encounters with coconut pirates and even a giant crab. Moana is an intriguing new twist on the classic Disney princess movies, starting with the fact that she is not technically a princess, but rather the daughter of the chief. It includes beautiful intricate animation of characters and especially scenery. The tropical aspects are visually appealing and really tie together the whole movie. The music, however, was very much stereotypic of the new generation of princess movies that are steering further and further from the brilliance of the Sherman brothers and Allan Meinken, but is certainly on the higher end of that category with creative songs evocative of music in south pacific cultures. The storyline is very well planned and keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats waiting for more. All in all, Moana is a huge success – it’s funny, it’s thrilling, it’s masterfully executed, and I would recommend going to see it no matter your age or preference. Also, see if you can find references to Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, Sven from Frozen, and even Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph.

Written by Matthew Blanco with contributions from Kathryn and Martin Blanco


Finding Dory…and Maybe a New Favorite


It’s here! It’s here! It’s…what’s here again? Finding Dory, of course, after nearly 13 years of anticipation, finally hit the theaters! It’s become an early summer tradition for my family and some of our closest Disney-loving friends to go out to the new Pixar movie at our local theater the night before the posted release date, so we bought ourselves some (perhaps too much) popcorn and settled into the cushy movie theater seats to watch Disney’s newest release. This ritual offers an opportunity to connect with friends and bounce our thoughts off of one another in regards to the new film. This year, the bar had been set incredibly high by the beloved Finding Nemo, and I was bracing myself for disappointment. My biggest fear was that this movie would be pleasant, but nothing more than a continuation of Finding Nemo, or a reiteration of the same scenes the other way around. Pixar managed to avoid this problem by giving this story a different message. Marlin did have to learn all over again about the benefits of loosening up, but the story focused on Dory and her very real struggle to cope with an affliction. In order for this to happen, Dory had to move beyond her original role as a source of comic relief. Pixar developed her character by building a touching backstory and putting Dory in situations where she was forced to rely on her own resourcefulness. The new cast of characters she encounters along the way are engaging as well. They emphasize both the importance of a strong support network in times of difficulty and the value of the kindness of strangers. And since an especially attractive part of Finding Nemo was the gorgeous representation of the ocean life, I was glad that Pixar maintained this high quality animation style throughout their new story.

But if it seemed a daunting feat for two clownfish to be reunited in the wide waters off Australia in Finding Nemo, the sequel pushes the limits of the imagination. The fish travel farther than before, but the bulk of the distance is covered by only minute or two in the film. Once they arrive at the main setting, the Marine Biology Institute of California, a whole lot of land-jumping and suspiciously effective camouflage effects allow for the story to take place largely out of the ocean. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our fine fish friends become so insurmountable that they are forced to drastic measures, only to face an even bigger challenge, resulting in numerous false endings. One truck scene in particular – you’ll know it when you see it – destroys any plausibility the story might have had. And yet, more than anything, the animators seemed to be having fun with the story, and that kind of silly joy is infectious. I had a tremendous amount of fun watching it, as did the rest of the audience, as evidenced by the enthusiastic round of applause unleashed when the credits started to roll. I’m more than satisfied with this most recent Pixar adventure, and can’t wait until the next one hits the theaters.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR . . .Something to be Thankful for

The Good Dinosaur coming to a theatre near you.

The Good Dinosaur has arrived

Disney Pixar’s newest release, The Good Dinosaur, debuts today! I was lucky enough to attend an advance screening in my home town with my brother and some of our friends on November 24th, an incredibly exciting experience for a Disney fan like myself. Keeping up with the latest Disney films is just one way my family and I maintain the spirit of the Disney parks alive at home. A theater near us always has a showing the night before the official release date we like to attend with some equally Disney-oriented friends. Sharing these new stories reminds us of the magic and creativity of Disney. For all those who ran out to see the film today or are looking forward to seeing it soon, here’s a quick, spoiler free review.

I have to admit, a lot of Pixar films leave me feeling unsure about what I think of them. On one hand, being Pixar, they’re automatically of some quality. Yet the incredible thing about Pixar is each story they tell is so very different. This makes it difficult to compare films, especially from different time periods in Pixar’s development. With that in mind, The Good Dinosaur was not my favorite Pixar film, but still a great movie. The plot seemed somewhere between the (somewhat) more traditional story lines of older movies, like Monsters Inc., and the more experimental ones, like Up. Some scenes were more reminiscent of a survival story than a traditional Disney tale. One scene, featuring the triceratops, Forrest Woodbush, seemed completely out of place. Overall, the story follows Arlo the dinosaur’s adventure as a charming friendship blossoms between him and a young human. With no central villain, the film focuses more on Arlo’s goal of proving himself to his family and his growing connection with his human friend.

Hands down the best aspect of the film was the animation. In fact, it seemed as if the story was being used to display the animation rather than the other way around. There was a lot of opportunity to play with the wonders of nature and Pixar did so beautifully. Everything from the fluid movement of the T-Rex to the texture of a dripping leaf captures the imagination. A few shots almost looked like live action! And the cast of characters, an array of interesting creatures, was delightful.

Of course, it’s crucial not to forget the pre-movie short!  Sanjay’s Super Team, the cartoon in question, follows the story of a young Hindu boy resisting and then reconciling the divide between his modern western life and the culture of his parents, represented by his father’s religious shrine and his parallel shrine to morning cartoons. The story is compelling and the art work that brings Hindu gods to life as superheroes enchanting. Based on the childhood of its director, Sanjay Patel, the short’s representation of the struggle to combine your own passions with your family’s past is one that will resonate with many viewers.


Wherever and whenever you get a chance to see The Good Dinosaur, enjoy!


c. 2015 Kathryn Blanco