Category Archives: Films

My thoughts on: Black Panther (2018)

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*caution, spoilers ahead*

It has been a very long time since I went to see a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Due to burn-out and other situations, I believe the last film I went to see was Avengers: Age of Ultron all the way back in 2015. I truly thought I was permanently burned out on the MCU until I saw the first teasers for Black Panther late last year. Something about the film kept drawing me in, as much as I tried to ignore it. Then, when the first reviews came out critically praising the film as a masterpiece, I knew that I would have to go and see for myself.

The critics are right. Black Panther IS a masterpiece. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is the best film in the MCU to date (though Avengers: Infinity War might claim that title once it releases in May).

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As far as I can tell (my knowledge of the MCU timeline isn’t the best), Black Panther picks up about a week after the events of Civil War, during which time T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda, was assassinated in an explosion at the United Nations. His son T’Challa is set to be crowned king and fully come into his rights as the Black Panther that protects Wakanda from the outside world. A beautiful prologue explains that Wakanda was built over a huge meteorite of vibranium that crashed into the Earth. While four tribes agreed to live in peace under the first Black Panther, a fifth tribe, the Jabari, refused and went to live in the mountains. Because the vibranium allowed Wakanda to build and work with technology that far outstripped the rest of the world, it was decided long ago that the nation would hide in plain sight, posing as a Third World country while it is actually the most advanced on Earth.

I think my favorite scene in the whole film is when T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is returning to Wakanda with Nakia (an ex-girlfriend that he clearly still has feelings for) for his coronation. The ship they’re flying on appears to be heading straight into a mountain when at the last second it’s revealed to be a hologram! The facade melts away to reveal this beautiful city full of flying ships, mag-lev trains and of course the enormous vibranium mine (overseen by a huge panther statue). The entire city is a perfect example of Afro-Futurism, combining traditional African designs with futuristic technology (it’s sheer perfection to watch). T’Challa is crowned king after forcing a challenger to yield in ritual combat; but his throne is not as secure as he thinks.

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Enter Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), my new favorite villain in the MCU (sorry Loki). Erik is introduced as an associate of Ulysses Klaue (whose vibranium stealing exploits have been a thorn in Wakanda’s side for thirty years). The pair (with the help of a girlfriend) steal a vibranium weapon that was mistakenly sent to a British museum decades ago. Klaue plans to sell the metal to an American bidder in South Korea, and T’Challa makes plans to capture the villain and bring him back to Wakanda for justice. Klaue is captured, but is shortly broken out again by Killmonger. In the ensuing fight, T’Challa gets a look at Erik and is stunned to see him wearing a ring that used to belong to his grandfather, something only a member of the royal family should have. It turns out that Killmonger is actually the son of T’Chaka’s brother who fell in love with an American woman while working undercover in California in the 1990s. When Eric was a young boy, T’Chaka confronted his brother over helping Klaue steal vibranium and was forced to kill him when he attacked Zuri, who’d also been undercover watching the prince. But the real tragedy of the situation emerges when it is revealed that T’Chaka chose to leave his nephew behind, rather than take him back to Wakanda. Is it any wonder that Erik is bitter and seeks to rule Wakanda as its rightful king?

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Killmonger fascinates me because his motives are so complex. He genuinely believes that he knows what’s best for Wakanda. Rather than maintaining the nation’s centuries of isolationism and secrecy, Erik seeks to spread vibranium-based weapons all around the world to his fellow brothers and sisters of African descent, train them in their use, and then take over the world in Wakanda’s name; essentially “starting the world over.” To this end, he KILLS Klaue and takes his body to Wakanda, knowing that alone will get T’Challa’s attention.  The young king, knowing who Erik is, doesn’t want the truth coming out in front of his council, but it does anyway. Aside from being stunned to learn that there’s a royal cousin that nobody in Wakanda knew about, they agree that Erik is fully within his rights as a royal prince to challenge for the throne by ritual combat. And this led to my other favorite scene: as Erik and T’Challa fight, Erik spells out why he is the better king for Wakanda, revealing that he has killed many, many times (and for each kill there’s a self-inflicted scar on his body). And Erik wins the fight! (This time anyway. Plot armor of course, ensures that T’Challa isn’t actually dead, but that doesn’t stop everyone from thinking so for a while).

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I found the clash between Erik, who grew up in America, and the culture of Wakanda to be enthralling. Now I understand the article titles I saw that mentioned the conflict between African-Americans and Africans. Even though they have a common origin (in Africa), the way they grew up almost guarantees they’ll be nothing like each other, and so it is with T’Challa and Erik.

Another part of the film that I absolutely loved are the Dora Milaje; an all-female squad of elite warriors that protect the king of Wakanda at all times. They’re led by Okoye (Danai Gurira, aka Michonne on The Walking Dead!), an absolutely bad-ass warrior who will not hesitate to attack her enemies with a spear. Their fighting style is thrilling to watch; they move with such precision and grace that you can’t doubt their lethal abilities.

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Aside from T’Challa himself, I absolutely loved his little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Though only 16, she’s in charge of Wakanda’s technological developments, which also include providing updates to the Black Panther’s suit and weapons (which include being able to remotely drive a car via holographic interface). It’s hinted that she can fight as well, but it doesn’t come out until the big fight at the end when she emerges with Nakia in fighting armor and wreaks havoc on the enemy. I definitely want to see more of Shuri (and Wakanda in general) in the MCU.

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One last thought about Erik: part of me wishes he survived past the end of this film. I DO understand why he did and said what he did at the end, but he was so compelling to watch that I was half-hoping to see his body in stasis or something like that, ensuring a future appearance. I’ll also say that there were several scenes with Erik that had me in tears, including his final moments with T’Challa.

Final thoughts: Black Panther is without a doubt the best film produced for the MCU yet. It’s a compelling story, without any flaws that I could find. Definitely go see it!

What did you think of Black Panther? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂 As always, thank you for coming by and checking out the blog, your support means everything to me!

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Film 101: The MacGuffin

If you’ve ever read in-depth about films, you’ve probably come across some variation of the following statements:

“The hero chased a series of MacGuffins for the entire story.”

“The plot twist revealed yet another MacGuffin…”

But what is a MacGuffin? Well, MacGuffin’s are plot devices that originated in literary fiction and have long since moved over to film as well. They appear as some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) pursues, very often with little to know narrative explanation as to why they desire this thing. It should also be noted that a MacGuffin’s importance comes not because of the object itself, but rather how it affects the characters and their motivations.

In most films where a MacGuffin appears, they’re usually the main focus of the film in the first act, but thereafter decline in importance, often being forgotten by the end of the story (though sometimes it will magically reappear to aid in the climax of the plot).

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There are many examples of MacGuffins in film but one of the most popular would be the search for the Death Star Plans (held by R2-D2 and C-3PO) in the original Star Wars film. From the beginning of the film (when Darth Vader chases down Princess Leia’s ship), almost to the end (when the Falcon escapes the Death Star to head to the Rebel base on Yavin 4), the plot is driven around obtaining those plans for either the Empire or the Rebellion. This is an almost identical scenario to the one in The Force Awakens where both the First Order and the Resistance are seeking the last map piece to locate Luke Skywalker.

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The Infinity Stones could be described as the ultimate MacGuffin of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, as possession of these objects (the Tesseract, the Aether, the Mind Stone, the Power Stone, the Eye of Agamotto) has driven a large number of the films, with the threat of Thanos coming to collect them himself growing ever larger. Just for a refresher:

-The Tesseract: Captain America: The First Avenger; Thor; The Avengers; Avengers: Infinity War

– The Aether: Thor: The Dark World; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Mind Stone: The Avengers; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Power Stone: Guardians of the Galaxy; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Eye of Agamotto: Dr. Strange; Avengers: Infinity War

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Another MacGuffin example that appears both in literature and film is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. If you think about it, for the most of the story the Ring doesn’t really do anything except lie on a chain around Frodo’s neck. The entire plot revolves around destroying this Ring of pure evil before the Dark Lord Sauron can get his hands on it or before anyone else can claim it for their own, but we never really get to see it used to its full potential (though admittedly hints are given as to what it can do).

Possibly the most famous MacGuffin of all cinematic history comes in the classic Citizen Kane, when the reporter attempts to track down the meaning of Kane’s last whispered word “Rosebud.” To this end, he interviews countless former friends, lovers and associates, all in an attempt to find where this one word came from (I’m not going to tell you because the reveal is something everyone should experience for themselves).

And that’s my explanation for what a MacGuffin is. Having read through the examples, do any MacGuffins come to mind that I didn’t list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

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See also:

Film 101: Archetypes

Pinocchio “I’ve Got No Strings” (1940)

Having been unwittingly sold by Honest John and Gideon to the gypsy Stromboli, Pinocchio is all set to make his big debut in the puppet* theater as the star attraction. Nearby, Jiminy Cricket watches the proceedings with disgust, he can’t believe Pinocchio has fallen into this “I’ll be a big star” trap so easily. The show begins and Pinocchio is introduced by a chorus of puppet trumpeters.

To my knowledge, “I’ve Got No Strings” is the only Disney song to have a false entrance. For you see, as the music begins and Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) begins his first line “I’ve got no strings to hold me do-” he trips over his own feet and somersaults down the stairs to land in a heap on the stage, to the great amusement of the audience.

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Pinocchio “I’ve Got No Strings” (1940)

In a big dose of foreshadowing, Stromboli nearly loses his temper and only his hastily remembered knowledge that there is an audience present stops him from beating the puppet on the spot. Stromboli encourages Pinocchio to try again (I shudder to think of what might’ve happened if Pinocchio had messed up a second time) and the song properly begins:

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I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me
 
Hi-ho the me-ri-o
That’s the only way to go
I want the world to know
Nothing ever worries me
 
I’ve got no strings
So I have fun
I’m not tied up to anyone
They’ve got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me
Pinocchio is a hit with the audience! To the delight of the young puppet, the audience applauds his performance and Pinocchio joins in the applause until the scene changes and a coy Dutch girl puppet descends to the stage:
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You have no strings
Your arms is free
To love me by the Zuider Zee
Ya, ya, ya
If you would woo
I’d bust my strings for you
After a group of Dutch girl puppets dance around Pinocchio (knocking him around a little in the process), they retreat only to be replaced by a sultry French girl puppet:
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You’ve got no strings
Comme ci comme ça
Your savoire-faire is ooh la la
I’ve got strings
But entre nous
I’d cut my strings for you
After this solo, Pinocchio is joined by a group of French girl puppets dancing the can-can, a revealing dance where (in real life), the dancers raise their skirts to show off their legs and petticoats. This is the one dance that attracts the attention of Jiminy Cricket who whips out a pair of spectacles to get a better look at the dancing girls. Of all the puppets, I liked the French puppet the best (just my preference). At the end of the dance, the scene changes once more and Pinocchio is joined by a Russian girl puppet:
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Down where the Volga flows
There’s a Russian rendez-vous
Where me and Ivan go
But I’d rather go with you, hey!
Unlike the other verses, this time the Russian girl is replaced by a troupe of male Russian dancers doing the traditional Hopak dance (often mis-labeled as “The Cossack Dance”), which is actually Ukrainian in origin. Pinocchio is so taken with this dance that he does his best to imitate the puppets with varying degrees of success. When the puppets move to wildly spinning, Pinocchio attempts to copy them, but as you might expect, the young puppet ends up tangling himself in all the puppets and proclaims to the audience:
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There are no strings on me!
To his relief, the audience’s laughter is complimented by wild cheers and applause and money begins raining down onto the stage (to the great delight of Stromboli). Jiminy is saddened by Pinocchio’s success, as it seems now like the young puppet will never want to go home and learn how to be a real boy.

Of all the songs in Pinocchio, “I’ve Got No Strings” is widely considered to be one of the most popular and enduring songs along with “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The music was composed by Leigh Harline, with lyrics provided by Ned Washington. The song was (in)famously used in the marketing for Avengers: Age of Ultron when a twisted rendition of the first verse played in the background of several trailers (ending with Ultron finishing the line “there are no strings on me.”) In the film, this song serves the purpose of giving the audience a lighthearted moment before the story takes another turn for the dark; in this case, when Stromboli locks Pinocchio into a birdcage and promises to chop him up for firewood if he doesn’t behave and keep making money for the gypsy.
*I know technically the “puppets” are all marionettes because they’re manipulated by strings, but I referred to them as puppets because that’s easier to type out than saying marionettes over and over again.
What do you think of “I’ve Got No Strings”? Besides Pinocchio, is there a puppet in this song that you like the best? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂 Thank you so much for supporting the blog, it means the world to me.

 

For more Disney songs, check out the main page 🙂

The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)

When Ursula made the deal with Ariel to make her human for three days so she could attempt to earn True Love’s Kiss from Prince Eric, I’m fairly certain the sea witch thought it was one of the easiest deals she’d ever made. Knowing full well that Ariel had practically no reliable information about life in the human world, Ursula likely thought that Ariel would make a fool of herself and never come close to earning any kind of kiss from anyone, let alone Prince Eric.

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The Little Mermaid “Ursula’s Transformation” (1989)

So imagine Ursula’s surprise and indignation when Sebastian and Flounder help set up “Kiss the Girl” and come within inches of getting Eric and Ariel to kiss; whether it would have been True Love’s Kiss we don’t really know and Ursula wasn’t willing to find out as she made sure Flotsam and Jetsam (her minion eels) sabotaged the moment by capsizing the boat. The sea witch is furious!

“Oh, she’s better than I thought. At this rate, he’ll be kissing her by

sunset for sure. Well, it’s time Ursula took matters into her own tentacles!

Triton’s daughter will be mine – and then I’ll make him writhe. I’ll see him

wriggle like a worm on a hook!”

Ursula quickly begins preparing a spell and, laughing, transforms into a beautiful human woman with dark brown hair, but still wearing her nautilus shell.

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Later that same evening, Prince Eric is still moping about the fact that he hasn’t found that mysterious woman who saved his life (you’d think despite the lack of voice that he’d simply recognize Ariel but it’s never that simple). Grimsby, his long-suffering butler, sympathizes with the prince, but he also gently reminds him that while his mystery woman may never be found, there’s a very real woman inside the castle (indicating the silhouette of Ariel getting ready for bed).

Left alone again, Eric contemplates Grimsby’s words before chucking his flute into the sea and turning to head inside. But before he can leave, a mysterious song begins floating up from the beach. A strange woman  with dark brown hair and a nautilus shell necklace is walking along the beach and singing with Ariel’s voice. A golden tendril of magic flows out from the shell and visibly enchants the prince.

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The Little Mermaid- Eric announces he’s marrying Vanessa (1989)

To Ariel’s horror, Eric announces the next morning that he’s found the woman who saved his life and they’ll be getting married that evening. Ariel cannot see the nautilus shell and so she believes that Eric is genuinely in love with another woman, meaning her entire plan has been for nothing!

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The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)

As the wedding barge gets under way that evening, Scuttle flies out to check out the ship and is attracted by a beautiful, but strange song coming from one of the cabins. Vanessa (the mysterious woman Eric is marrying) is getting ready for the wedding and singing to herself:

What a lovely little bride I’ll make
My dear, I’ll look divine
Things are working out according to my ultimate design
Soon I’ll have that little mermaid
And the ocean will be mine!

As the blushing bride examines her reflection in the mirror, the laughing face of Ursula peers out instead!! Scuttle can’t believe his eyes, Eric is about to marry the sea witch, Ariel needs to know about this! The frantic bird flies off to warn Ariel and her friends before it’s too late.

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Given that Ursula is using Ariel’s stolen voice, it’s no surprise when I say that Jodi Benson also provided Vanessa’s lines and also performed “Vanessa’s Song” which is really a brief reprise of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (a melody you can hear just as the brief song ends). It really just serves to confirm to the audience and reveals to our heroes that this is indeed Ursula in disguise (though I don’t think there was ever really any doubt for the audience given we witnessed the start of Ursula’s transformation back in her lair).

 

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What do you think of “Vanessa’s Song”? It’s one of the shortest “songs” in any Disney film, but it is one of my favorite moments as well. I remember as a little kid I would always gasp when the mirror tilted up to reveal Ursula’s reflection. Given her magical skills, it’s a wonder she didn’t keep herself looking like that (or similarly) on a permanent basis. Let me know your thoughts on this song in the comments below 🙂

See also:

The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (1989)

The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

For more Disney songs, see here

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Alice in Wonderland “Painting the Roses Red” (1951)

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Thoroughly tired of all the silliness in Wonderland, Alice wants more than ever to go home. Fortunately (maybe), the Cheshire Cat has returned with one last piece of advice. if Alice really wants to go home, then she needs to talk to the Queen.

“All ways here you see, are the Queen’s ways.”

“But I’ve never met any Queen!”

“You haven’t? You HAVEN’T? Oh, but you must! She’ll be mad about you, simply mad!”

And so, the Cheshire Cat reveals a shortcut to the gardens surrounding the Queen’s castle (which also happen to be the same gardens Alice saw through the keyhole when she first arrived in Wonderland). It’s a very pretty garden, but there are some odd things going on. For instance…there’s a bunch of cards running around, and they’re busy painting the roses. When Alice asks the cards what on earth they’re doing, they are all quick to explain (and this is the setting of “Painting the Roses Red”:

Alice in Wonderland “Painting the Roses Red” (1951)

Painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red
We dare not stop
Or waste a drop
So let the paint be spread
We’re painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red

Oh, painting the roses red
And many a tear we shed
Because we know
They’ll cease to grow
In fact, they’ll soon be dead
And yet we go ahead
Painting the roses red
Painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red

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Alice: Oh, pardon me,
But Mister Three,
Why must you paint them red?

Cards: Huh? Oh!
Three: Well, the fact is, Miss,
We planted the white roses by mistake,
And…

Cards: The Queen she likes ’em red
If she saw white instead,
Two: She’d raise a fuss
Ace: And each of us
Cards: Would quickly lose his head

Alice: Goodness!

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Cards: Since this is the part we dread
We’re painting the roses red

Alice: Oh, Dear! Then let me help you!

Alice: Painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red
Don’t tell the Queen what you have seen
Or say that’s what we said
But we’re painting the roses red
Alice: Yes, painting the roses red
Two: Not pink
Ace: Not green
Alice: Not aquamarine
All: We’re painting the roses red!

It’s a hilarious song with a ridiculous concept: the Ace, Two and Three of Clubs have mistakenly planted white roses instead of red ones, and because the Queen hates white roses, they’re hastily covering their mistake by painting the roses red (even acknowledging in their song that this will kill the roses entirely). But the Cards figure that killing the roses in the short term is better than losing their heads so, they continue to paint. Alice is happy to help in the work, but it’s ultimately not going to do the Cards any good, because here comes the Queen!!

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Alice meets the Queen of Hearts

After the Hearts line up in formation, the White Rabbit reappears to announce: “Her Imperial Highness, Her Grace, Her Excellency, Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of Hearts!”

Unfortunately for the cards, they left one rose only half painted, causing the completely mad Queen to bellow “Whose been painting my roses red??” The guilty cards plea for mercy but the Queen only shouts “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!” The cards are then dragged away as the others sing:

“They’re going to lose their heads, for painting the roses red!”

I absolutely love this song: it’s short and to the point and serves as a nice piece of filler to introduce the Queen of Hearts to the story. Despite only appearing in this last part of the film, the Queen of Hearts is considered one of the iconic Disney villains. I hope you enjoyed listening to “Painting the Roses Red.”

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See also:

Alice in Wonderland “The Un-Birthday Song” (1951)

Alice in Wonderland “All in the Golden Afternoon” (1951)

Alice in Wonderland “In a World of My Own” (1951)

Pinocchio “Hi Diddle Dee Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me!)” (1940)

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Geppetto the toy maker is overjoyed to find that his wooden puppet Pinocchio has come to life. And though he is not yet a “real” boy, he treats him as his own son regardless and decides that Pinocchio needs to go to school, since that’s where all good little boys go during the day. After some persuasion, Pinocchio sets off with his new school books and a spiffy little vest to go with his regular outfit. Though he’s meant to be his conscience, Jiminy Cricket is nowhere to be found as yet.

Pinocchio “Hi Diddle Dee Dee” (1940)

On the way to school, Pinocchio attracts the attention of a fox and his cat companion, who can hardly believe that they’re seeing a puppet walking and talking without strings! The fox stops Pinocchio and introduces himself as “Honest” John (his full name is John Worthington Foulfellow) and the cat, who doesn’t speak, is Gideon. Pinocchio informs the pair that he is on his way to school, but Honest John (voiced by Walter Catlett) says that this is a ridiculous notion.

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Why should this young boy be going to school when it’s perfectly obvious he’s a natural actor (said with a wink and a nod to Gideon who quickly understands where Honest John is going with this conversation). The pair quickly divert Pinocchio from his path to school and begin describing the wonderful life he could have as an actor and this is the subject of “Hi Diddle Dee Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me!):

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee. An actor’s life for me!
A high silk hat, and a silver cane.
A watch of gold, with a diamond chain.
Hi-Diddle-Dee-Day an actor’s life is gay!
It’s great to be a celebrity.
An actor’s life for me!

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dum. An actors life is fun!
With clothes that come from the finest shop.
And lots of peanuts and soda pop.
Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee an actor’s life for me.
It’s great to be a celebrity.
An actor’s life for me!

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, an actors life for me!
A waxed moustache and a beaver coat.
A pony cart and a billy goat.
Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dum, an actors life is fun!
You wear your hair in a pompadour!
You ride around in a coach with four!
You stop and buy out a candy store!
An actor’s life for me!

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee. An actor’s life for me!
A high silk hat, and a silver cane.
A watch of gold with a diamond chain.
Hi-Diddle-Dee-Doo. You sleep ’til after two!
It’s great to be a celebrity, an actor’s life for me!

Honest John paints the rosiest picture imaginable: if Pinocchio goes off to be an actor, he’ll be fantastically rich and able to do anything he wants! He’ll wear the finest clothes, be able to buy out candy stores, it’s a grand life! The puppet is easily persuaded to follow the fox and cat to the theater (in this case the travelling puppet theater owned by Stromboli), all thoughts of school and being a “real” boy forgotten for the moment. Of course the naive puppet has no way of knowing that this “actor’s life” wouldn’t apply to him, not where he’s going anyway. Pinocchio doesn’t know it, but Honest John and Gideon are on their way to sell the young puppet to Stromboli for however much they can get from the Italian (it’s rather disturbing when you think about it).

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And where is Jiminy Cricket? It turns out the newly minted “conscience” overslept on his first day and now he’s racing to catch up to his charge, figuring that Pinocchio couldn’t possibly have gotten into too much trouble yet (oh how wrong he is!!) The trio quickly passes him in the street and Jiminy is stunned to see Pinocchio walking with the fox and cat in the opposite direction of school! The cricket chases after them, but being so small, he is unable to make them stop and they journey on to Stromboli’s.

“Hi Diddle Dee Dee” is notable for being the first Disney villain’s song ever performed. Originally, Gideon was going to have a voice too (in fact the legendary Mel Blanc was hired to record his lines), but it was later decided to make the cat a mute comedic figure similar to Dopey and so all of Blanc’s lines were cut except for a few hiccuping sounds. I’d also like to point out that the song uses “gay” to mean “happy/wonderful” (just in case there was any confusion).

What do you think of “Hi Diddle Dee Dee”? It’s a rather short but enjoyable song (and certainly not what you picture for a “villain’s” song. Let me know your thoughts about the song in the comments below!

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For more Disney songs, see here

For the more disturbing aspects of Pinocchio, see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (1989)

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King Triton’s Entrance

The Little Mermaid is universally acknowledged to be the film that launched the Disney Renaissance (a period that lasted from 1989 until Disney’s Tarzan in 1999). The Academy Award winning score was composed by Alan Menken, who collaborated with lyricist Howard Ashman on the songs.

It’s a big day in the undersea kingdom of Atlantica. The court composer Sebastian (a Jamaican crab) is putting on a concert starring the daughters of King Triton, with tonight being the debut of the youngest, Princess Ariel. King Triton, benevolent ruler of the Seven Seas, makes a grand entrance into the crowded concert hall in a seashell chariot pulled by several dolphins, lighting up the chandelier with a burst from his magical trident.

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King Triton is most excited for this concert as he’s been looking forward to Ariel’s first performance. Sebastian insists that he is excited too (though he quietly mumbles that it would be helpful if the princess attended more rehearsals). Despite his grumblings, Sebastian takes the stage and the show begins with six of Triton’s children appearing out of clam shells singing (appropriately enough) “Daughters of Triton”:

The Little Mermaid ‘Daughters of Triton’ (1989)

Daughters_of_Triton

Oh, we are the daughters of Triton
Great father who loves us and named us well:
Aquata
Andrina
Arista
Attina
Adella
Alana
And then there is the youngest in her musical debut
A seventh little sister, we’re presenting her to you
To sing a song Sebastian wrote, her voice is like a bell
She’s our sister Ari…

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Whoops! The concert comes to a crashing halt as the final clam shell opens to reveal…no one! Ariel isn’t here! Her sisters gasp in shock, the audience is befuddled, Sebastian is mortified and King Triton is understandably upset, bellowing out “ARIEL!!!” very angry that his youngest daughter has seemingly skipped out on an important event. Where IS Ariel? Well, as it turns out, she’s been busy hunting for human artifacts with her best friend Flounder (even though she’s been told repeatedly to stay away from anything related to humans).

Originally this scene was going to play out differently. In an earlier storyboard, the scene was going to start with Sebastian going backstage to check on the sisters as they are warming up for their performance. He would then notice that Ariel isn’t there and grow frantic when Andrina mentions that no one has seen her in quite some time. The crab races off to tell King Triton the bad news, but a spotlight illuminates him before he can reach the king, so the crab resigns himself to the inevitable and begins the show. It was decided that the scene would play better if Ariel’s absence was a complete surprise for everyone.

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Due to how the scene ends, this is a rare example of a Disney song that ends abruptly (another good example is “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from Mulan).

I always found the ending of this scene to be awkward as a kid, with the way the music comes to a sudden halt and how awkward everyone acts with the revelation that Ariel has no-showed the concert. Now that I’m older I can appreciate this scene better, as it starts a quasi-tradition of Disney princesses not being where they’re expected to be (for example, Pocahontas isn’t waiting to meet her father when he comes back from battle; Mulan is late to meet the matchmaker, you get the idea).

What do you think of “Daughters of Triton”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

See also:

The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)

For more Disney songs, check out the main page here

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