6 Movies To Watch If You’re Feeling Particularly Anti-Disney

smb 05582fd r2 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

From its inception, the Walt Disney Company has been an enterprise rife with contradictions. It’s one of the things that make it so fascinating, to me at least. It’s a part of its early desired identity, a keen interest in entertainment geared toward the young and the young at heart, and the range of emotions therein. Hence, the earliest movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio followed the fairytale tradition of containing fairly dark elements that existed alongside the pervading sense of magic and wonder. The intentions of engaging children’s imaginations runs deep in Disney history, and designates a significant portion of the studio’s interest in the scary side of imagination as well as the pleasant side. It’s a noble thing to respect the range of imagination that children can exercise, but it’s also fairly creepy.

Externally, there are plenty of reasons to react against the presumed synonymy between “Disney” and “perfect, pure, childlike happiness.” A trip to any Disneyland park offers this. It’s an environment riding high on emotion, but existing side by side with the gleeful screams of carefree kids are the shrieks of unhappy children full of I want, the retching of overstimulated and overstuffed young visitors, and the not always audible but usually visible rising stress levels of overwhelmed parents. On top of that there are issues of how Disney treats low level staff, from park employees to those mysterious cases of disappearing cruise personnel. It’s a corporation first and foremost, and while it makes millions of people happy, at least superficially, there’s always profit motive and all the potentially sinister motivations that can accompany that. It’s a matter of forever trying to reconcile that Walt Disney was a man who seemed like a lovely fellow wanting to spread joy to as many people as possible, and also, apparently, a raging anti-Semite. There are reasons to be skeptical and maybe even hostile to many of the things Disney is about, is what I mean to say.

Here are 6 examples of what could be described as anti-Disney movies for anyone in a slightly cynical mood.

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1) Escape From Tomorrow

Escape From Tomorrow 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie that takes Disney on more directly than this year’s celebrated guerilla filmmaking triumph, Escape From Tomorrow. Forget for a moment what the story is about, because frankly, that is and should be considered secondary to how insane it is that this movie even got made and released. This is a movie that takes place at Disney World, and was mostly shot at the park without permission from Disney to do so. The result is, in itself, a bit surreal since we’re not used to seeing Disney World depicted on film in this way, or really in any way. Disney is famously protective of its image and property, and so the thought of this tiny film crew functioning completely in secret, running and hiding from security at times and communicating directions from opposite ends of the park so as not to attract any unwanted attention, is pretty crazy.

Shooting the film was one thing, one extremely complicated thing. Getting a release for it was another thing altogether, given the intellectual property nightmare it surely would be to either try to get Disney’s permission to allow these copyrighted images to appear in a commercial film, or to just release it without permission and wait for the lawsuits to roll in (the movie’s website has a “Hours since release that we haven’t been sued” clock at the top of the page). What’s more, the story doesn’t paint Disney and its various lands in the most positive of lights. Borrowing heavily from folks like David Lynch, director Randy Moore tries to capitalize on the surreal nature of seeing Disney World on film by making his plot a surrealistic one. It’s also an attempt to capture the deeply weird feeling the resort can elicit. It’s not a flattering portrayal. It’s also not the most engaging or enjoyable narrative, but when you consider the meta component of its production, this movie has to be like catnip for Disney detractors.

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2) Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop1 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

It’s a movie that is, in a way, anti-everything, even anti-itself, and so an artistic takedown from an anti-Disney perspective is most certainly in order from street artist-turned-masterful film director Banksy. It’s also certainly one film that must have informed Randy Moore about what sorts of security measures Disney personnel take when they detect undesirable activity occurring at one of their parks. Like most of the films I’ve included on this list, describing Exit Through the Gift Shop as “anti-Disney” per se is admittedly a reduction of a number of different elements at play. There’s a criticism of corporatism in plenty of Banksy’s graffiti works; it’s just that, as in one work that stands out, Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse are brands of equal measure, and equally deserving of satirical representation.

The scene in his 2010 documentary is fascinating and revelatory. It demonstrates the kind of security apparatus Disney has in place at its parks. We see Banksy and co-conspirators enter Disneyland and place a mannequin dressed up as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner over the fence and among the décor of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. Security is alerted quickly, and the ride is shut down, with Banksy’s cameraman being detained and interrogated while Banksy himself is able to hide. You can ponder the intended meaning behind the stunt, but the one message that comes out loud and clear from the whole scene is a great big “eff you, Disney.”

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3) Toy Story

Toy Story 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

Though it was released by Disney, one of the defining features of the Pixar-animated original Toy Story movie is that it specifically sought out ways it could depart from the Disney animation model and change the way popular American animated features could play for movie audiences. Again, I use the term “anti-Disney” liberally, here meant to capture the motivations of writer Andrew Stanton and the people he has talked about at Pixar who wanted to break away from a model they felt had become maybe a little tired and repetitive. There were also apparently some tense negotiations between Steve Jobs and Michael Eisner, heads of the two respective companies, that must have contributed to this first movie’s makeup somewhat.

Stanton would go on to direct A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E, along with another movie whose name escapes me, which gave him the clout to deliver a TED talk back in back in 2012. In the talk he describes this small Pixar team’s set of secret guidelines that outlined their wish to distance themselves from Disney’s animated tradition. These precluded the use of songs, of what they called “I want” moments, any happy village tropes, love stories, or villains. He goes on to describe that these by chanced turned out to be the precise set of rules Disney producers had been following to this point. And it shows in that first Toy Story movie. Subsequent instalments have softened on this relatively anti-Disney approach, but it was this drive to push the field of animated storytelling that got Pixar to where it is today.

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4) Antz

Antz 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

Disney’s biggest animation rival since 1998 has been DreamWorks, whose animation studios released their first feature that year, an unlikely project featuring a lead ant character voiced by Woody Allen. The film also featured a philosophical examination and darker and heavier images and themes that aren’t even associated with animated movies now, let alone in the earliest days of computer animated features. In fact, Toy Story writer Andrew Stanton ended up co-directing A Bug’s Life, a computer animated feature depicting the story of ants, which was released only two months after Antz.

It’s not uncommon for two very similar movies to be made at the same time, but the details about how these projects came to be pursued at their respective studios are curious. Jeffrey Katzenberg was an executive at Disney until he and CEO Michael Eisner fell out, prompting Katzenberg to head up the DreamWorks animation department. It seems too much of a coincidence for Katzenberg to then independently oversee work on an animated movie about an ant when that was precisely what had already been pitched over at Disney. There has to be some overlap, and Disney certainly felt as though their idea was stolen, but Katzenberg denies everything, naturally. If this were The Social Network, though, Katzenberg is Mark Zuckerberg and Eisner and Steve Jobs are the Winklevi. Antz is a vastly superior movie, and was the first to plant its flag. Take that, Mickey.

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5) The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant 6 Movies To Watch If Youre Feeling Particularly Anti Disney

Warner Bros. Animation is not really in the business of feature films, specializing primarily in those Looney Tunes guys, although they are making a bit of a push over the next few years, beginning with the highly anticipated Lego Movie (I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for an animated movie before. It’s weird). It’s going to be their first fully animated movie since the beloved 1999 Brad Bird-directed feature, The Iron Giant.

I say beloved, but it has taken quite a long time to earn that designation. Its initial box office release was a pretty sad tale, resulting in a huge loss for Warner (perhaps why their animation department had such a long cinematic hiatus, and why they’re pushing Lego so hard right now). In hindsight, many are now hailing it as one of the greatest, possibly the greatest, animated movie of all time. It’s certainly smarter than any movie Disney has ever released, with a Cold War-set commentary behind it and beautifully subtle allusions to other relevant movies and stories throughout history. “I am not a gun” has become a pacifist catchphrase against movies that tend to glorify violent resolutions. It also matches Disney in its visual gags and silly humor, as well as deeply felt and emotionally powerful moments. Movies like Nemo and WALL-E are cute and beautifully executed, but The Iron Giant contains a little something extra.

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6) Brave

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By the end of Brave, it may not feel as though the movie went against Disney’s regular form all that much, but in some ways it’s a different kind of narrative, and at the very least you can see where director Brenda Chapman wanted to go with the film before she was replaced on the project she herself had initiated. That part of the story is rather disheartening; although I know directors on these sorts of huge animation projects are routinely swapped out and almost interchangeable, Disney had touted their “first female director” so proudly that her firing is even more of a bitter pill to swallow, and another example for glass ceiling critics to point towards.

All that said, this is a Disney movie with a female lead who is not entirely motivated by marrying a prince, who is defiant and largely self-defining, and probably does better on subsequent viewings provided you ignore everything Disney has done with the character of Merida since the film’s release. There’s some progress though, if you look closely and only at certain areas.

Part of Disney’s success in branding has come from effectively associating its name with magic and happiness and childlike wonderment and blah blah blah, and that’s all well and good, lord knows I was giddy as a schoolgirl on the two occasions in the past couple of years that I’ve been able to visit their renowned theme parks. But it’s also natural to be a bit wary of things that seem too good to be true. It’s unclear to me what Disney actually wants its perpetuated fantasy world to do for people, whether it’s pure escapism, actual wishes for a better world, or indeed a cynical employment of gimmickry to get people to pay as much money for their next euphoria fix as possible.

Do you have strong feelings towards Disney in any way? Any pro- or anti-Disney movies you like to turn to when you feel that way? Let us know in the comments section below.

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    End of Iron Giant, forever tears.