By Claire Mueller, Staff Writer
// When thinking of Disney, a multitude of images come to mind: theme parks, two mice, or any one of the movies that they released over decades, including classics like “The Lion King,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Little Mermaid”. Underneath these cultural phenomenons hide movies that can easily be overlooked among overwhelming amounts of Disney movies.
Many movies suffer as a consequence of Disney’s speedy production rate. Who can remember a summer when Disney did not release a new movie? It seems hard to recall, and that is precisely why people skim over perfectly deserving movies like “Hercules” (1997), “Lilo and Stitch” (2002), and “The Princess and the Frog” (2009) when talking about Disney classics.
“Hercules” details the established myth of Zeus and Hera, Greek gods, and their son, Hercules (Tate Donovan). In a devious plot by Zeus’ brother Hades, Hercules is kidnapped and turned mortal, except for his godlike strength. Hercules trains to be a hero and utilizes his god-given muscles to save Greece from Hades’ evil apocalyptic plan.
On the surface, “Hercules” looks like any run-of-the-mill cinematic retelling of a Greek myth, of which there are many to choose from. However, the movie presents a hilarious script, an amazing soundtrack, and memorable characters. One such Internet icon, Danny DeVito, plays Phil, a half-man, half-goat creature called a satyr. He guides Hercules through grueling physical trials with witty one-liners. Overall, the best part of this movie is the soundtrack. Sung by Greek muses, they deliver beautiful vocals while also adding another interesting layer to the story.
“Lilo and Stitch” presents a much more realistic storyline, especially if one believes in aliens. Lilo is a little girl who is being taken care of by her older sister, Nani. They live in Hawaii, and Lilo and Nani do a decent job of portraying native Hawaiian culture. The sisters adopt an alien named Stitch who crash-landed on Earth after running away from his captors, who hunt for him throughout the movie.
The main reason why viewers should recognize this movie more is its plot. Despite being Lilo’s older sister, Nani works the job of a single mom, and she spreads herself thin trying to parent Lilo the best she can. However, her best is sometimes not enough, which leads to Nani’s desperate fight to keep Lilo from the Child Protection Services (CPS) agent who shows up to remove her.
Nani’s utter devotion to her sister, even though Lilo isn’t the easiest child to parent, is refreshing. The poignant portrayal of real-life struggles, such as an older sister battling CPS to keep her family together, is surprisingly realistic and raw for a children’s movie.
Continuing the hard-working women trend, Disney released one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Princess and the Frog,” seven years later, starring Disney’s first black princess. Set in Depression-era New Orleans, vivacious protagonist Tiana dreams of owning a restaurant. She is quite a foil to Charlotte, her boy-crazy best friend from a rich white family. However, Tiana’s plot is thwarted when she becomes a frog after kissing Prince Naveen, who turned into a frog after getting involved in voodoo.
Seeing a hard-working woman who must be wooed by a love interest is refreshing, and so is Tiana and Charlotte’s precious friendship. Although Charlotte is the boy-crazy friend and originally wanted Naveen for herself, when Tiana gets married to Naveen at the end, she is incredibly happy and supportive.
These three Disney movies present quality entertainment, integrating authentic themes with characters who break stereotypical molds. I believe these movies deserve their places in the spotlight. Next time when struggling to pick a choice for movie night, remember the three viable choices right here.