The Carousel of Progress

NOTE: This entry is a trip down memory lane, but be warned: At the end it gets political. As a result, I’ve disabled comments for this post. If you disagree with anything here, the Web is open – write your own blog. I have nothing against respectful dialog, but the Internet being what it is, I have no time for trolls.

progress

I first encountered this lovely exhibit when I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Of all the presentations at the Expo (aside from the food – Belgian waffles, mmm) – along with the Picturephone demonstration, this is the one that stuck in my mind.

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After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Disneyland, where I experienced it again, and thereafter found a home in Disney World in Florida, which we visited just last week. It was lovely to reminisce.

Carousel 1

The 1900s. Life couldn’t be better with all the modern conveniences like gas lamps… and soon they’re supposed to have electric lights in the house!

As with anything, the ride did get a few updates over the years:

Carousel 2

Notice in this version it’s Valentine’s Day – and the model has had a bit of an update as well.

Carousel 3

The 1920’s. Electricity and gas are everywhere, and life couldn’t possibly be better. Happy 4th of July!

Carousel4

Hallowe’en in the 1940’s – this looks a lot like kitchens that I grew up with in the 50s.

Carousel 6

Christmas in the 1960s – this tableau has now been supplanted by a 21st-Century version – in the back is a view of Disney’s model city of the future, part of the original idea behind EPCOT (Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow). Which, unfortunately, because our nation has been focused on flinging its precious human and material resources into unwinnable and futile conflict, has yet to become a reality – despite that dream.

Carousel 5

Another view of the 1960s.

Carousel 7

The 21st Century – (click for a larger view). Most of what you see here is now real, including much better graphics on Virtual Reality devices.

Carousel 8

If our 45th president and the climate-change deniers have their way, it might be necessary to replace the last tableau with one like this.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

The only dream of our current “leaders” seems to be to violate the planet, exterminate the poor and the different, and add to the bottom line of the wealthy. I do not support this, I will not support this, I will not be silent – or I will never be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye with honor.

Resist
The Old Wolf has spoken.
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Frozen: The masterpiece, the controversies.

sisters

Well, after a long wait for Frozen to come to the local budget theater, we finally saw it last night. Heartwarming, uplifting, technically brilliant, visually appealing, musically stunning, I left the movie house with tears in my eyes and a song in my heart. Huge props to everyone who had a hand in the creation of this masterpiece – the Oscar was imminently deserved, and although the wait was painful, but now the itch has been scratched. As soon as it is available on DVD, it will take an honored place in my collection.

Unfortunately, there are some folks who are not at all pleased with the effort. Some think the Sámi culture was minimized and disrespected:

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Supposedly the Sámi are “people of color,” and the representation of Kristoff on the right would have been more accurate, but just hop over to Google and search images for the Sámi people, and you’ll see for yourself that they’re a mixed bunch. Click through for a great article about the supposed “whitewash.” As for not including people of color, have a gander at this ballroom scene:

Ballroom

… and those are just the ones I could see at first glance.

I first was introduced to the Sámi when I visited the Norwegian Folklore Museum in Oslo. Up until that time they had not been on my radar – there are so many cultures in the world it’s hard to become acquainted with all of them.

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Thanks to Globerider’s blog for the photo.

But they are a proud people with a distinct culture, language, and history, and I was pleased that the opening sequence of Frozen was an example of Joikthe traditional a capella chanting of the Sami people. Wikipedia notes that “Frode Fjellheim is a widely known joiker, known from Transjoik (earlier called Jazz Joik Ensemble). Fjellheim contributed the opening song to Disney’s holiday blockbuster Frozen, the yoik Eatnamen Vuelie (“Song of the Earth”).” If that’s not going right to the source, I don’t know what is.

Last are those who saw ulterior motives and messages in the film. I’m sorry to say that one of these is a member of my own community of faith. Having now seen the film myself, I can go on record as saying that I saw not a hint of “core message” dealing with the LGBT community, bestiality, or satanism. People with too much time on their hands can find virtually anything they look for anywhere, and reveal more about themselves than they do about the subject they are complaining about.

Nobody likes everything. Viggo Mortensen said “If you’re trying to please everyone, then you’re not going to make anything that is honestly yours, I don’t think, in the long run.” The adaptation of “The Snow Queen” that has now become “Frozen” is a unique product of its creators who gave their all to tell a beautiful story, and from where I sit the film is destined to take a high place of honor in the Disney repertoire.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Inner Child, by Cristian Girotto

Fell down this rabbit hole today and wanted to share, for no good reason. I love Girotto’s work, and this particular exercise is intriguing.

“Without bothering Jung and its “Puer aeternus” or Pascoli with its “Little Boy”, we can certainly agree that, somewhere inside each of us, there’s a young core, instinctive, creative but also innocent and naïve. What would happen if this intimate essence would be completely revealed?”

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Have a look at the full exhibition and enjoy as much as I did.

Young children and babies are, with some unfortunate exceptions, almost universally cute and appealing. According to Jeffrey Kurland, associate professor of biological anthropology and human development, “we are inherently attracted to a specific set of characteristics, including large, symmetrical heads, large eyes, small mouths, and small noses.” But why do almost all humans find this particular set of features so appealing? Kurland’s answer: Evolution. Click through for the full article.

Whatever the case, those features have been admirably co-opted and sugar-coated by the ultimate wizards of cuteness, the Disney corporation; feast your eyes on this:

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I was talking to the Goodwoman of the House the other day and mentioned that Rapunzel was probably the most archetypically attractive princess they’ve ever constructed; comparing her features to Girotto’s manipulation above, it’s easy to see why. Once again, “large, symmetrical head, perpetually large Bambi eyes, small mouth, and small nose,” combined with other unmistakable traits usually associated with youth and beauty. In essence, she has all the cuteness of a baby blended with the body of a youthful goddess… how could she not be universally lovable, unless you have an allergy to saccharine?

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Imagining the Worst

Back in 2009 it was announced that Disney had acquired the Marvel franchise. I felt moved to post this:

What if, horror of horrors,  a couple of decades down the road Disney manages to purchase the Harry Potter franchise?

If you’re not squeamish, click the “Curtain of Mercy” to see what a Dementor of Azkaban might look like

The Old Wolf has *shudder* spoken

Disney Star Wars Fusion: 2008

 

With all they buzz about Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and the announcement of 3 new films, I thought these figurines spotted here were of interest. Happy coincidence, prescience or insider knowledge? Who’s to say?

Goofy Binks

Darth Donald

Minnie Amidala

Mickey Skywalker

I know there are a lot of people sweating bullets about what Episode 7 could look like. They point to Santa Clause II and John Carter of Mars as examples of Disney efforts gone horribly wrong. But beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. I happened to love John Carter; it was full of good action, good effects, and a great pair of Barsooms.

I understand why Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin (as a boy and a teen) annoyed people. I get that folks were offended by the ching-chong ling-long trade federation representatives, or “badabing badaboom” Watto. But seriously, I can overlook all of that and look at episodes 1 to 3 through a different lens. In many ways, they were great films, with heart-stopping effects and some real background.

You might have cast a Haley Joel Osment type with real acting skills as young Anakin and gotten more sympathy, but Jake Lloyd was a real kid, and who’s to say Anakin wasn’t just like that? Many people found Hayden Christensen’s Anakin as petulant and whiny, but the more I watch the shows, the more I see that those qualities were critical to the development of the Vader character and that Christensen pulled it off admirably. Anakin/Vader was every bit the center of the Star Wars saga, much as Snape was truly the tragic hero in the Potter world. The heroes go around swashbuckling, getting the girl and saving the universe, but there’s nothing like a tormented villain with a good heart to give real meat to a drama.

So my heart is at peace. I look forward to episodes 7 to 9 with anticipation; after all, what Disney pulls off couldn’t possibly be any worse than Jar-Jar or the Ewoks, and I’ve already forgiven George Lucas for those, just because the entire vision was so awesome. And Disney, in collaboration with Pixar, has pulled off some epic wins. The results could be (pun intended) stellar.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Brand Retconning

Over time, a number of corporate logos and personages have undergone subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in image to reflect changing social attitudes. Retroactive continuity (retcon for short) is the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work, most often used in the comic book universe. What follows are a few brands who have re-worked their logos or spokespeople.

Aunt Jemima

This is one of the first brand updates that I recall being aware of.

This ad was from 1909. and Auntie looks like Al Jolson.

This 1925 ad shows a “mammy” looking more like an animated cartoon caricature, more clearly visible in the enlargement below.

The Aunt Jemima I remember looked cuddly and plump and just like the nanny you’d love to have:

And mm-mm! Don’t she make dat good fried chicken, too. The company was obviously trying to present an image of down-home, antebellum comfort, which in the 50’s still seemed totally à propos in the American psyche. As it happened, I did have two African-American nannies when I was growing up; Edith did make killer fried chicken, and also taught us how to make our own soap with animal fat and lye which had been leached from ashes. Nice lady, and sharp as a tack.

There was another one that I recall – she looked a lot like the plump Jemima, but wasn’t anything like the image. I don’t recall her name, but she chased me around the house with an ashtray, and that was the last time I ever saw her.

In 1968, Auntie got a makeover – she shed a bunch of weight and they lightened her up considerable. By the 60’s, the civil-rights movement was in full-swing, and the black mammy image wasn’t going to go over well with a large part of America’s population. Still, there were conflicting attitudes within the black population as well: hair straightening and skin lightening were popular, as though it somehow made a difference in social acceptance or self image.

Finally, in 1989 Aunt Jemima shed her scarf to reveal a natural hairdo and earrings.

A brand is a powerful thing. People have been buying Aunt Jemima products for almost 120 years, and a company would be loth to give up that kind of brand exposure. It seems to me, though, that clinging to the name and logo, even though updated, falls into the same zone as naming sports teams things like the Braves and the Redskins; it might be time for a complete rebranding, much the way Esso became Exxon, or U.S. Steel became USX. (Not that the letter X has any special value – I don’t know how likely I’d be to buy Nxxoxxi Pancakes. I make my own from scratch, anyway.)

The Campbell Kids

This one is unusual. The original kids were designed by Grace Drayton in 1904, and they were strong with the force through the 20’s, when their popularity tapered off. In the 50’s the kids were revitalized, had their own TV show, and have been part of the Brand ever since. The first image is from 1930, the second from the 50’s, and the kids are just as plump and well-fed as a Reubens painting. In 1984, the kids got a baryatric re-work, as seen in the third image above – but it’s not easy to find any pictures of the re-designed twins out there – it’s almost as if they have been scrubbed from the net.

Quaker Oats

Larry, the smiling Quaker so familiar to oatmeal lovers, was given a makeover in 2012 in order to keep the 135-year-old Quaker brand “fresh and innovative,” according to the company. The changes were subtle – a bit less hair, about 5 lbs off the face, and a few wrinkles gone – but he does look a tad younger and healthier than he used to.

All of these changes make a certain type of sense. Racial attitudes change, and people are becoming far more health-conscious. But the next one seems to come from somewhere out beyond Pluto (which is still a planet), if you get my drift.

Minnie Mouse

Apparently, Barney’s department store is not satisfied to use Minnie Mouse as she normally looks in a Lanvin dress… so they’ve resurrected Heroin Chic for the occasion.

What? The? Hqiz?

This insult to the whole concept of body image (apparently only 5’11”, size zero looks good in Lanvin) has prompted a petition over at change.org entitled “Leave Minnie Mouse Alone,” which at the time of this writing almost 90,000 people have signed. From the petition website:

According to sources cited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:

  • 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

Girls have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that the only good body is a tall, size 0 body? Enough already. Let’s give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress. Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on them.

For what it’s worth, Minnie is not the only character to be violated in this manner:

Daisy Duck as a starving Barbie

Goofy looking like nothing more than an “Axe” model.

Really, Barney’s. How in thunder did something like this ever pass muster? And who at Disney greenlighted this use of their characters? I can only think that the executives themselves were smoking something.

The Old Wolf has *gag* spoken.