Moana

The day after Christmas, the kids and I went to see Moana (mild spoilers ahead).

Now, I’m going to start off by saying that I very much enjoyed Moana. I want to say that right off the bat, because I’m going to send some mixed messages in my review here.

Moana was perfect in every way. A little TOO perfect. Like, so perfect that it almost falls into the “Uncanny Valley:

the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

I don’t just mean the plastic-skin-eyes-too-big-for-the-head-Bratz-style animation, I mean everything about it. This movie is as formulaic as formulaic can be. I played this game with Sara:

Me: “I bet you can guess every single thing about the movie without me telling you.”
Sara: “Is there woman-empowerment?”
Me: “Plucky girl with a hilarious sidekick? Check!”
Sara: “Let me guess…she has to go on a journey. To find herself.”
Me: “Check!”
Sara: “And someone important to her dies, like maybe her dad.”
Me: “Her Grandma! Check!”
Sara: “And there’s a guy…”
Me: “…and they don’t get along at first! But they’re stuck together so they have to make the best of it!”

You get the idea.

It feels like every movie Disney has made for the past 20 years has been leading up to this. Each Disney Frankenstein has gotten closer and closer to fooling the Turing test, and now they’ve finally cracked the code. They took every good part of every Disney movie, learning each time what worked and what didn’t, and then somehow mashed them all together seamlessly.

And the worst part is? It works! It’s such a good movie! You would think that a movie that follows this closely to the script would have no heart, but it does have heart! And a great soundtrack! (yes, I am aware that Lin Manuel was involved, and I am not exactly an unbiased source, but) And jokes where there should be jokes and sadness where there should be sadness and not a single hair out of place.

And it totally works. I’m like one of those birds that can be tricked by a superstimulus into feeding some other hatchling while my own babies starve.

I know I’m being manipulated, and I still like it anyway. DAMN YOU WALT DISNEY!

Alice

Evie has recently become obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. She has 2 slightly different versions of the Little Golden Book summary of the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. (Kind of like a game of telephone, isn’t it? A translation of a translation.) It’s not all that surprising that she’s into it, considering it stars a little girl, a cat, and a rabbit; probably Evie’s three favorite things to hear stories about.

Imagine her delight when she found a copy of the original Lewis Carrol book on my nightstand.

I bought it at a used book sale some time ago, meaning to read it, but never quite getting around to it. Evie, however, was desperate to read it immediately. Sara and I figured that she was probably ready for chapter books and, though it’s probably not the one I would have chosen, it would do. So I started reading it to Evie before bed.

I’m not sure why Evie liked the book so much. She mostly seemed bored while we were reading it and asked for more pictures. Alice is quite a precocious little girl and most (if not all) of the story went right over Evie’s head. After we finished reading she would ask me what happened and I would try to summarize it in a way that would be more interesting to her. But every night she would demand that book, even when I tried to get her to read something else.

Now it so happens that around this time we stumbled across an Alice in Wonderland play being put on by the Chicago Kids Company. The timing was too perfect, so we had to go (in fact, Evie and I finished the last page of the book the morning of the show).

Tickets were pretty cheap, and, the day of, Evie and I were pretty excited about it. It was definitely designed for kids and was very interactive. There was yelling, counting, and even a dance section. During the dancing Evie mimicked Alice exactly, move for move. Because most of the theater was full of school kids, Evie and I ended up in the very front row. This was pretty cool, but maybe a little scary for Evie. At one point, the White Rabbit ran through the row right behind us and then down the stairs next to Evie and she about clawed my leg off trying to get into my lap away from him! Evie had insisted on bringing her stuffed bunny to the show, and, whenever the White Rabbit was on stage, she would hold her bunny up so he could “see”. Afterwards, the characters all waited out front to say hi to the kids. Evie was a little nervous, so she wouldn’t get too close, but she did show her bunny to the White Rabbit. He said that it looked like one of his cousins, and I think that was a highpoint for Evie.

I asked her what her favorite part was and she said the singing (it was a musical). She liked seeing all the characters she expected to see. The play was about an hour, and there was no question about Evie sitting still for it. She was enthralled and probably could have gone another hour, no problem. Huge attention span on that girl. (Side note: the theater company must have been a little leery¬†about the Queen of Heart’s famous “Off with their heads!” line, because when it came time to deliver it, they decided to go with, “Off to the dungeon!” instead)

Since Evie’s main exposure to Alice was from the book and not the Disney movie (which she’s never seen), I imagine her perspective on the show was a little different than the average audience member. She kept asking for obscure characters like the Griffin, the Duchess and the Mock Turtle. Her favorite character in the book is the Griffin, which she knows has a “birdie face and lion legs”. She has decided in particular that the Griffin in Alice in Wonderland’s face is red, like a cardinal. She was not quite sure what to make of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I seem to remember them being a big part of the movie, but they aren’t in the book at all.

Anyway, it was a great day and I’m sure Evie will be talking about it for a long time. Already she keeps talking about “when we go back” and who we will see (she’s hoping for the Duchess). She told me, “When I grow up and become a mommy, I’ll take you to see Alice in Wonderland!” Unfortunately, I forgot the camera and didn’t buy a shirt, so memories are all we’ll have.