Tag Archives: disney

Film Review: Aladdin (2019)

Going into this year’s live-action remake of Aladdin, I was full of misgivings. The trailers really didn’t do the film any favours, and it looked like it was going to be a very cheap-looking film. Having watched the film, I can say that some of those fears were ultimately realized; the film, for its enormous budget, does often appear awfully small. This is, ultimately, the problem of producing this particular type of fantasy film in a “real” environment. While 2-D animation allows for a truly magical world to explode to life on the screen, these live-action/CGI hybrids, somewhat paradoxically, are often strangely limited in their representation.

For all of that, I actually found myself enjoying the film more than I anticipated, and a great deal of that enjoyment stems from the undeniable charisma and chemistry of the three leads: Aladdin (Mena Masoud), Jasmine (Naomi Scott), and of course the Genie (Will Smith). Masoud is, to put it bluntly, absolutely adorable, and he really seems to have fun in the role. He’s charming and awkward in all of the right ways. Scott, likewise, brings a political bite to the character of Jasmine that wasn’t really present in the original; in fact, she wants to be sultan in her own right, rather than settling as a consort.

And, for his part, Will Smith really owns the role of the Genie. Since no one could ever compare to the screwball, rapid-fire power that Robin Williams brought to the role, Smith opts instead to make it his own. There’s no denying that Smith has that certain sort of charm that has made him such a compelling star for so long, and he brings all of that to bear as Genie. Admittedly, it is still rather odd to see him as the big blue character but, thankfully, the film frequently opts to show him as a fully human character, which mitigates that strangeness.

Plot-wise, film hits the same points as the 1992 film, though there are a few significant differences. For one thing, the film fleshes out Jafar’s backstory–making him a former pickpocket who clawed his way up to the pinnacle of political power. However, that backstory just doesn’t do enough to lift the character into the same realm as he was in the animated film. Marwan Kenzari is fine as far as he goes, but he lacks the screen heft to do anything new or interesting with the role. (Though I hate to say it, his voice just isn’t the right fit for Jafar. Jonathan Freeman, who voiced the character in the 1992 film, made him a far, far more interesting villain). And, unfortunately, this Jafar is significantly less queer than his predecessor.

This defanging of a villain is very much in keeping with the other live-action remakes that we have seen or are going to see. Luke Evans, bless him, doesn’t even come close to capturing the hyperbolic and camp masculinity of his predecessor, and it looks like Scar of the new The Lion King will lack the scenery-chewing queerness of Jeremy Irons’s rendition of the character. While some might greet this as a good thing, I beg to differ, as it robs these villains of the very thing that makes them so compelling and, well, fun.

That’s not to say that Aladdin isn’t fun. Unencumbered by the slavish devotion to re-staging every scene (the fatal flaw of Beauty and the Beast) and with Guy Ritche at the helm, the film is very confident in itself. Ritchie has a very distinctive visual style, and while I wouldn’t say that Aladdin puts these to maximal effect, there are a few flourishes that stand out. And, aside from everything else, Aladdin is just a fun film, one that doesn’t always take itself so seriously.

Enjoyable as it is, it’s worth pointing out that the film still has its problems with representation. Like its predecessor, this film trades (very unreflexively) in Orientalism. As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s just sort of a mishmash of sundry “Eastern” cultures, with no real sense of cultural specificity. Thus, whatever strides forward it makes in terms of racial representation–the cast is, thankfully, almost completely non-white–is undercut by these other issues. As that same friend pointed out, it would definitely help Disney to have a few people in positions of power to point out how woefully tone-deaf they can be (though I’m still not convinced it’s possible to do a version of this story that isn’t fundamentally Orientalist). While we’re on the subject of race: what in the hell was Billy Magnusson doing in that movie? Seriously, does anyone know?

Overall, I’d say that Aladdin is a fine remake. If this is the direction in which Disney is taking these live-action remakes, I think that bodes well for how successful The Lion King will be. Will it hold up the way that it’s predecessor has? Probably not, but for now, it’s an enjoyable enough magic carpet ride.

The New “Aladdin” Looks Like Trash: A Screed

The 1992 Aladdin was the first Disney film I well and truly fell in love with in the theater. Though I later came to understand the many problematic things about it (not least its flagrant Orientalism), I also came to appreciate the queerer textures that bubble under its heterosexual surface (Jafar is one of the queerest of the Disney villains IMHO). And there’s no question that the film is breathtaking and gorgeous and filled with irresistible music.

So, all of that being said, I was a little dismayed to hear that Disney was going to be doing a live-action remake. Though I had liked The Jungle Book, I felt that Beauty and the Beast was so devoid of imagination as to be a colossal waste of time. I still harboured hopes, though, that somehow Aladdin would be different.

If the recently-released trailer is anything to go by, it won’t be.

First of all, it boggles my mind how a film that is so expensive to make can look so distressingly cheap. As I watched the trailer, I just could not quite shake the feeling that I was watching an extended episode of Once Upon a Time. It is definitely not a good thing if your big-budget blockbuster looks like your network show, and I still cannot wrap my head around how so much money could produce such shoddy CGI. Admittedly, some of this cheapness may look better on the big screen, but I’m not holding my breath.

Secondly even if the CGI ends up looking better in the final film that we see in theaters, there’s no shaking the fact that the costumes aren’t great. Again, I’m not sure exactly how it is that such a big budget can produce costumes that look so….cheap and campy. Speaking of camp, I have a feeling that this film is going to be way camp, and not in the self-conscious way that the filmmakers and studio would like.

Third, while it’s no secret that the 1992 Aladdin was hella racist and Orientalist, one would think that two and a half decades would have taught studio execs something. Certainly, they made the right choice by populating the film with non-white actors, but there’s still so much about the aesthetic of the film–and even the core of the film itself–that can’t quite elude the aura of fetishizing the Middle East. While you could get away with that nonsense in the 1990s (sort of), I have my doubts about how well this is going to fly in 2019. (And don’t get me started on the fact that they still felt the need to cast a white actor as a rival for Jasmine’s affections).

Finally, there’s the fact that the whole affair just looks so…small. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because traditional 2-D animation still has a sense of wonder and magic about it, but I’m always shocked by how limited these remakes are. The Jungle Book probably came close to attaining the grandeur and majesty of the Disney Renaissance, but I think that may have to do with the fact that the film they chose to remake is one of the lesser lights in the Disney firmament. In any case, the trailer for Aladdin fell very short indeed of any sort o (the opening shot of the Cave of Wonders was particularly underwhelming).

And the worst part about whole thing?

I’ll still go see it.

I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

Film Review: Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) is a Charmingly Sweet Confection

If I had to use one word to describe Disney’s recent remake of one of its classic entries from the Disney Renaissance, it would be: charming. Not substantive, not really moving in the way that the 1992 version was, yet enjoyable all the same. If that sounds like damning praise, it isn’t. The film doesn’t really set out to do anything grand or earth-shattering and, to me, that’s perfectly okay.

It basically follows the same plot as its predecessor, though it does fill in a few narrative gaps. We learn, for example, that Belle’s mother died of the plague, and that the reason that the people in the village forgot about the prince and his servants is because the enchantress made that part of the curse. I don’t know about anyone else, but the smoothing out of these inconsistencies was rather nice, even if it did evacuate a bit of the mystery and glamour that always surrounds fairy tales.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the objects in the castle threaten to steal the show from the human leads. Ewan McGregor steals almost every scene that he’s in, and he is a surprisingly fitting heir to the late Jerry Orbach (who played the witty and debonair candelabra in the 1992 film), while Ian McKellen is delightfully stodgy as Cogsworth (not quite as exuberantly uptight as David Ogden Stiers). Emma Thompson has a lighter touch for Mrs. Potts than her predecessor Angela Lansbury, though her rendition of the titular song is as charming and appealing as the rest of the film.

Yet Dan Stevens and Emma Watson more than hold their own, he as the rather gothic hero and she as the independent woman determined to make her own way in the world. The film is a little more explicit in its treatment of why the Beast turned into such a brat, suggesting that it was the indifferent cruelty of his father that led him astray. For her part, Emma Watson brings her signature brand of feisty feminist heroism to the role, so that she actively attempts to change the restrictive atmosphere of the town by teaching a young woman to read (which we learn is firmly against the law).

That being said, even the cast of Emma Watson can’t quite undermine the fundamentally conservative vision of this film. After all, this is still the story of an independent young woman who ultimately falls in love with a man who has attempted to rob her of her agency. No matter how much the film attempts to cover over that fact, it still leaves something of a bad taste in one’s mouth, especially given the fact that Donald Trump is president. Being a man who imprisons women is never a good look, even for Dan Stevens.

This sense of charm (rather than substance) is as relevant to the maelstrom swirling around LeFou’s sexuality as it is to the rest of the film. When it was revealed that Josh Gad’s delightful character would be “openly” queer, the announcement was met with a strange mix of hysteria (from the Right) and dismay (from the queer left, who were upset at the fact that he would continue to fit into the stereotype of the sissy). Gad brings his own unique brand of buffoonish charm to this otherwise infuriating character–one of the worst in the original film–and that in itself helps to make him a more sympathetic character. The film itself gives almost zero attention to his actual romance, though, so it appears we will have to wait a bit longer for an actual, fully-fledged queer character to appear in a Disney film.

There were a few sour spots. I like Luke Evans well enough as an actor, but to my mind he just doesn’t have the gravitas (or the singing ability) to play the role of Gaston. The original character was truly a paragon of toxic masculinity, but it was precisely the hyperbolic nature of it that threatened to deconstruct the very idea of gender altogether. Evans…just doesn’t have that much personality, if I’ve being perfectly honest. He’s more suited for brooding and sulky characters (such as Bard from The Hobbit) than he is as a blustering huntsman obsessed with his own beauty. It just feels like a role that Evans forced himself to take on, and it just doesn’t quite gel for me. It leaves me wondering if he might have done better cast as the Beast, but I suppose that will have to remain one of those what-might-have-beens.

All in all, Beauty and the Beast is a fitting tribute to the original though I, like many critics, still wonder why exactly it exists. If rumours are true, there are some indications there might be a sequel, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Even charm can only go so far.

Film Review: “Moana (2016),” a Fable for the Trump Era

Sometimes, you want a movie that helps you to see that it’s not all hopeless, that there is still some glimmer of hope in the world for those of us who think for a living. It’s really hard to find that these days, as the true consequences of a Trump Presidency loom ever larger in our collective imaginations. While I saw Disney’s Moana before Trump’s inauguration, since then its message, its aesthetics, and its emotional impact have come to be even more significant in hindsight. Since then, I’ve come to see it as essentially a product of its time, yet another entry in my ever-growing archive of works of art produced in the fledgeling Trump Era.

Its hard not to read this film in light of the world that we are currently inhabiting, in which a small cadre of politicians continues to insist that man-made climate change is a myth (or at least that it isn’t as imminently catastrophic as most predictions suggest it is). Moana’s father, admirable and powerful though he clearly is meant to be, cannot quite bring himself to believe that the world they have been so happy living in is coming to an end and, just as importantly, that there is something that they can do to stop it. Theirs is a society turned resolutely inward, refusing to admit the reality of what is transpiring, even as they can feel and see its effects, from the coconuts that have begun to shrivel to the encroaching emptiness of the fisheries.

There is also something profoundly moving about the sequence that restores the world to its basic balance, in which Moana encourages Te Fiti (transfigured into the vengeful lava demon Te Kā) to remember who she really is and returns her heart to her. While it is easy to dismiss this as just another example of reducing women to nothing more than stand-ins for nature, to me it was a proud moment of reclamation on the part of both Moana and the goddess herself. Given that Disney has historically been prone to relying far too heavily on the romantic plot to resolve its narrative dilemmas, it was actually rather nice to see it rely instead on the affective bonds between two women). And, considering the fact that we now live in a world where a man who bragged about assaulting women was still elected to the Presidency, it’s heartening to see the validation of women in the context of a Disney film.

Indeed, so many of the film’s most important relationships are built on the bonds among women. It’s hard not to feel the intensity of the bond between Moana and her grandmother, whose spirit (in the delightful guise of a manta ray) continues to guide her as she attempts to make sense of the world and her quest to restore the disrupted balance of nature. Or the fact that it is her mother who, in a gesture of rebellion against her husband, enables her to escape from the island to undertake her quest. In this world, men are not driven by a ruthless patriarchal drive to oppress women but instead by a slightly misguided belief in the rightness of their own actions. It may be a slight distinction to some, but to my eyes it is an important layer of nuance to the ways in which the film engages with questions of gender.

Thus, the film also has something important to say about masculinity. It is no accident that Dwayne Johnson is the one providing the voice of the film’s primary male character, Maui. “The Rock” has long straddled that line between hyper-masculinity the gender-bending that seems to always accompany the culture and physique of bodybuilders.  And indeed his animated doppleganger also has a similar problem with his own masculine persona, precisely because he is so often too masculine. It is only when he embraces Moana’s wisdom and, just as importantly, joints with her, that they are able to restore the world to its rightful balance.

Moana, like so man other recent films, TV series, and novels, is a product of its time. We are, scientists almost unanimously agree, living in the midst of a truly terrifying climate event, the scope of which many of us cannot begin to appreciate in its totality. And we are, many cultural critics and social scientists would argue, living in a world where men continue to indulge and valourize a particularly toxic and destructive model (see also:  President Donald Trump).

There is, ultimately, an aesthetic of profound and unbridled joy at work in this film, one that helps us to deal with the bleak world that we currently inhabit. The colour palette is rich and helps portray both the exquisite, lush beauty of Moana’s island home as well as the dark, ashy future that awaits it if they continue to turn their faces away from their mutual responsibility. In moments like this, it’s a balm to turn to (of all things!) a Disney film to find at the very least a feeling that all will be well, even if our material reality suggests exactly the opposite.

All in all, Moana is a film very much for as much as it is of our troubled times. While the narrative provides the closure and resolution that we always seek when we watch these types of films, given the rather depressing state of our world–a world in which, after all, the Doomsday Clock has moved closer to midnight–that doesn’t mitigate its potential. Rather than allowing ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the conclusiveness of the end of the film, we should instead take the film as a whole as a call to action. Though it might seem that our world is draped and overwhelmed in an impenetrable shroud of doom, this film reminds us that it is never too late, that we must always be the change that we want to see in the world.

That, in the end, it is never too late.

Film Review: “The Jungle Book” (2016) and the Pleasures of Joy

Every once in a while, you come out of a film feeling happy that you saw it. Not overwhelmed or perplexed or thoughtful. Just…joyful. Some films just have that power.

The Jungle Book is one such film.

I have to admit to some trepidation going into this. I was less than thrilled with the way that Maleficent turned out, and I was really afraid that the same would happen with this beloved classic from my childhood. I was afraid they might botch it with too many incoherently interwoven storylines and that the film would end up a complete mess. Fortunately, however, the opposite was true. It is, in essence, a retelling of the original Disney version of this film, with some elements of the Kipling stories thrown in and, fair warning, a bit of murderous violence on the part of Shere Khan.

For the canny viewer, the film contains a number of Easter eggs. Though she makes a very small appearance in the film itself, Scarlet Johansson’s Kaa does deliver a delightfully sibilant rendering of “Trust in Me,” over the end credits. For those who were perplexed (as I was) that the original King Louie was an orangutan (which are not native to India), the Favreau has cleverly rendered him into a Gigantopithecus, the giant ape that many believe to be the explanation for the Yeti.

The voice talents in this film are, in a word, phenomenal. I didn’t think that one could do any better than Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Phil Harris, and Louis Prima as Bagheera, Shere Khan, Baloo, and King Louie, respectively. However, I have to say that Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Christopher Walken do a stellar job. Kingsley adds just the right amount of gravitas and genuine affection to Bagheera, while Bill Murrary is in truly fine, charming form as the buffoonish yet lovable Baloo. On the villainous side of things, Idris Elba snarls and chews his way through the script, but he truly does lend a powerful grace to his portrayal. And truly, no one  but Christopher Walken could lend this much more terrifying vision of King Louie such a unique aura of menace and charm.

Of course, no review would be complete without praising Neel Sethi, the boy who plays Mowgli. At the most basic level, it’s refreshing to see a person of colour and of Indian descent playing this character. However, he is also just a great actor, bringing a certain world-wise charm and playfulness to the role that I really wasn’t expecting. Though I’m a little skeptical about the wisdom of the announced sequel, as long as Sethi is on-board, I’m game for it.

While I normally find 3-D to be a distraction, I actually found that it worked quite well. Part of what lends this film its joy and its unbridled energy is the use of the camera, which often mimics Mowgli’s own excitement. We as spectators are invited to enjoy this kinetic camera, and while the jungle world that we see is completely (or almost completely) computer-generated, this heightens rather than dampens the sense of beauty and wonder if evokes. Further, the claustrophobia of the final fight sequence is truly enhanced by the 3-D camerawork, allowing us to feel, vicariously, those last, breathtaking moments before Mowgli’s final victory. (FYI, if you’re interested in the cinema of sensations, check out Richard Dyer’s article on the subject in Sight and Sound, from 1994).

There is, indeed, something uniquely satisfying about seeing the devilish and sadistic Shere Khan finally get his comeuppance at the hands of the boy who has suffered so much at his hands. It’s important to remember that the tiger was responsible for the death of not only Mowgli’s human father, but his lupine one as well. While Shere Khan does have some measure of justification for his anger and hatred toward humans, he eventually becomes so blinded by his bitterness that it proves his undoing. I’m still a little anxious about the that the film reinforces Mowgli’s inherent superiority as a human, but I need a little more time to mull that over before reaching any firm conclusions.

Now that the bad taste of Maleficent has been thoroughly washed out of my mouth, I have high hopes that Disney’s other remakes-in-the-works will be similarly well-crafted. I have particularly high hopes for their upcoming Beauty and the Beast, which looks quite promising, indeed.

Come on Disney. Keep impressing me. We’ll both be better for it.

Film Review: “Zootopia” and the Triumph of Good Storytelling

As readers of this blog know, I’ve long been a fan of Disney. Admittedly, I rather fell off the wagon with Tarzan and some of the ill-conceived efforts that followed, but I’ve been largely on board since The Princess and the Frog.

Fortunately, Zootopia has reinforced my belief that we are living in a second Disney Renaissance.

The film follows Judy Hopps, an optimistic and ambitious young rabbit who yearns to move away from her small hometown and take up life as a member of the police force in the bustling metropolis of Zootopia. Once there, her fate becomes entangled with that of a huckster fox named Nick and the two of them, in turn, quickly become embroiled in a massive conspiracy designed to upend the precarious peace between predators and prey.

Disney has always had a knack for choosing voice actors who have a magical chemistry, and that is certainly the case with this film. Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White from Once Upon a Time) brings her own particular brand of bubbly optimism to the character of Judy Hopps, while Jason Bateman lends an ironic (almost but not quite hopelessly bitter) twist to Nick. Their obvious chemistry (whether or not they actually recorded in the studio together), makes their relationship utterly compelling and believable.

Speaking of that relationship…I can’t tell you how relieved I was that they didn’t try to force some sort of romance subplot into a film in which it really did not have a place. Judy and Nick function quite well as friends, and it is actually rather nice that they remain friends at the end of the film. It would seem that Disney has finally figured out that the rigorous focus on hetero courtship that was the go-to narrative for so many years isn’t the only thing that kids and parents will go to see, and hopefully this bodes well for the future and for the kinds of films that the studio will be releasing in the coming years.

The humour in this film is both razor-sharp and surprisingly nuanced. While there are many parts of the film that will certainly appeal to children (the scene with the sloth in the DMV is one of those), I would hazard to say that most of the jokes are designed to appeal to people old enough to remember the first Disney Renaissance. In that sense, the film harks back not just to that earlier era of animated greatness but also to a deeper genealogy, one that includes such other

This being a Disney film of the old style, there is of course a moral at the end of the film:  not to judge by the species but instead by the person, er, animal. While this may appear trite to the more jaded among us, in an era in which Trumpist xenophobia and rampant racism seem to be the order of the day, it’s rather pleasant, even exciting, to see a mainstream film send such a positive message of acceptance and good-spiritedness, a film that shows that we are indeed stronger when we band together than when we constantly tear one another down. Further, it’s also nice to see a film in which the heroine doesn’t need a man to help her succeed but instead does so on her own terms.

In the end, though, it is not the technical dexterity of the film that really wowed me (though it does feature some truly magnificent animation). Instead, it is the power–simple and unalloyed–of a good story well-told. In this age of dazzling, eye-popping special effects magic and threadbare storytelling and endless franchises, it’s rather refreshing to see a film that simply stands on its own a storyZootopia doesn’t rewrite any of the things that we know about how narrative and plot should work, but then again it doesn’t have to. Instead, what it wants to do, and what it succeeds at doing, is showing us how pleasurable story-telling can be when it is done capably.

We can only hope–as I certainly do–that Disney will keep up with this trend and continue to wow us with the stories that made us fall in love with the studio in the first place.

The Queer Pleasures of Disney Villains

Upon a recent watching of the excellent YouTube video “The Spell Block Tango,” it occurred to me (as it does often), about just how queerly pleasurable Disney villains have always been.  From the sophisticated and cultured queerness of Scar to the over-the-top drag villainy of Ursula the Sea Witch, Disney villains consistently lend themselves to queer appropriations and queer pleasures, opening up spaces of engagement with the allegedly (heterosexual) family friendly fare that is constantly purveyed by Disney.

The Disney animated features canon abounds with figures of queer villainy.  A few examples include:  Ursula (who was, in fact, designed after famed drag performer Divine), Prince John (voiced by Peter Ustinov, who also played the obviously queer and simpering Emperor Nero in the epic film Quo Vadis), Jafar (who we are all is more in love with Aladdin than he is with Jasmine), Gaston (anyone who is so macho and in love with his own heterosexuality has to be queer), and Scar (with the deliciously divine British voice of Jeremy Irons, how can we not take a lot of queer pleasure out of this villain with the “lion’s share” of brains), and Maleficent (who, though not queer, has such a stunning sense of fashion that we can’t help but take a measure of queer pleasure in her).

On one level, all of these characters are simply fascinating, especially when compared to the often lackluster heroes and heroines that populate the Disney landscape (they may be pretty to look at but, for the most part, they are rather bland characters).  In their over-the-topness and their elaborate costumes, to say nothing of their punchy dialogue, these allegedly “evil” characters offer themselves up to the queer viewer as a source of camp pleasure, in that we as gay viewers take pleasure in the artifice and the catty cruelty that these characters so often exhibit.  It’s not that we don’t like Ariel and Eric, or Jasmine and Jafar, it’s simply that their heterosexual romance does not offer the same pleasure as that given us by the characters who exist outside of these heterosexual circuits (however, this does not mean that queer viewers cannot inhabit the position of a Disney princess and desire the prince).  To some extent, whether consciously or unconsciously, we know that those queer characters on screen are our screen likes and our screen egos, and so we identify with them, even as we know that we are not supposed to (they are the villains, after all).

So, what are the politics of all of this?  Is there something problematic about the fact that so many Disney villains are so explicitly coded as queer and that, significantly, so many queer viewers seemingly find pleasure and identification with these evil characters?  Are we as queer viewers buying into the pernicious cultural myth that we are somehow a pestilence and a disease upon the body social?  Of course, if we were adopting the ideology that comes with these images of queerness in Disney popular culture, then that would certainly be the case.  However, I would argue that something far more complex is at work here.  As Brett Farmer convincingly argues in his noteworthy book Spectacular Passions, gay male audiences frequently identify with the tortured and doomed young man (he uses the notable example of Montgomery Clift) not because they see themselves as fundamentally doomed or tragic, but because they recognize in that particular figure the social forces that have resulted in his particular victimized status.  In a similar fashion, I would argue, queer viewers see in the Disney villain not simply an unadulterated and incomprehensible evil, as seems to be what the films themselves want us to take away, but instead a character who is, like the queer viewer, the victim of social oppression. The fact that so many Disney villains are denied backstories—we do not know anything about Ursula, for example, except that she was banished and exiled, for crimes that remain unexplained—allows a space for queer viewers to appropriate these villains and give them stories that make their alleged evil an added level of intelligibility through a queer lens.  In sort, gay men are wresting control away from the narratives themselves, understanding these characters as far more complex, captivating, and ultimately understandable than would seem to be the films’ intention.

All of this is not to suggest that all gay men engage with Disney in quite the same way.  Indeed, there are gay men that specifically do not like Disney or that “grow out of it” and cease to take pleasure in it after their childhood days are over.  However, what I hope I have shown is that Disney does offer queer viewers a multitude of pleasures that exist outside of the normal channels through which mainstream viewers take pleasure in these films.  This issue was brought home to me recently in one of the classes I teach, in which a student responded with dismay to my suggestion that, as a queer viewer, I took pleasure in the fact that the lion scar was so obviously coded as queer.  To her, it seemed incomprehensible that such a thing as queerness could have an influence on the cherished memories of her childhood (she did not say this in so many words, but the insinuation was clear).  In a world in which heterosexuality is still the privileged norm, and even more so in the case of Disney, queer viewers have to find new and challenging ways to engage with the popular culture that surrounds them.

Of course, Disney has not remained unaware of the fact that their villains have fan followings of their own, as the upcoming Maleficent film, as well as rumored projects about a Cruella de Vil and a wicked stepmother film, attest.  One can but hope that these films will continue the proud Disney tradition of making villains that are just as fascinating, if not more so, than their heroic counterparts.  And it can be equally hoped that they offer up similar, and perhaps even more poignant, queer pleasures.