They are a corporate bohemoth that now owns most of my childhood and may just end up monopolizing all of entertainment but Disney didn’t get that way by accident. Just weeks after the surprise early release of Frozen 2 onto their Disney + streaming platform the House of Mouse has now added Onward, the first non sequel Pixar film since 2017’s Coco.
It’s actually similar to Frozen 2 in a lot of ways with siblings embarking on dramatic quests related to deceased parents and reawakened magical powers not seen since ages past. It’s impossible to know for sure how the movie might have done if the world hadn’t suddenly shut down but most of the reviews that I’d seen weren’t overly positive towards what was often referred to as “Frozen for boys.”
I don’t have a problem with the reviews, everybody is entitled to their own opinion and history has shown that I enjoy many things that others don’t. I didn’t find it as memorable as Zootopia or some of their other recent releases but it was a fine way to spend a quarantined afternoon and if we hadn’t had to cancel our plans to see it in theaters a long three weeks ago I’d have considered it worth the price of admission. I’d be distrustful of anybody who said they didn’t cry at the end.
I have a problem with that description however, the inference that this movie isn’t for girls. It’s an action adventure, set in a post-Dungeons and Dragons type world where magic has been forgotten and my daughter loved it. This morning we watched the old Black Cauldron film from 1985 and she liked that too. We might go even further back next, to 1963’s The Sword in the Stone. If the idea is that girls won’t be able to relate to the brothers Ian and Barley I’d point out that the two most kick ass characters in the movie are probably the kids’ mother and a female Manticore tavern keeper.
It’s also a subtle rebuke to any boys that might have liked Frozen, a reminder that there is an expectation of masculinity that enjoying a movie with empowered female protagonists should prohibit. I’m forty five years old and no longer care about such things but kids pick up on these cues. I’d make the case that Kristoff might be one of the best male cartoon role models ever. He’s loyal and supportive, always willing to help out in any way possible and never resentful of Anna’s strength and independence. His willingness to sacrifice his own happiness to further hers makes him the true hero of the first film and the scene in Frozen Two where he finds himself left behind in the forest is as heartbreaking as any other recent Pixar moment.
Prince Charming has long been synonymous with Mr. Right but I think I’d much rather my girls meet a Kristoff. I think that if there is a Halloween this year I’m making this my costume.
It’s been a theme around here for a while but I’ll say it again for those in the back : as long as we continue to label things as “for boys” or “for girls” we are placing our kids into predetermined, sexist little boxes instead of teaching them that they can enjoy whatever they want. That they can be whoever of whatever they want. What makes a movie great is when everyone watching takes away a little something different from the experience. It’s as true for great animation as it is for live action and also for boys as well as girls, regardless of what they are watching.
Previously Published on thirstydaddy.com
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