Disney Challenge

Disney Challenge: Beauty and the Beast (1/4)

So, I know I said that Snow White would be our first discussion on the Disney Movie Bucket List challenge. But, with the advent of the box office smash live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, I’m going to skip ahead and then we’ll talk about Snow White next week.

Like many others, Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite of all Disney movies. I saw the live-action movie on Saturday and re-watched the cartoon on Sunday. I’ve also had the soundtrack on repeat ever since. So, fair warning here, I have A LOT to say about this one. Instead of one super long post, I’m going to split it up.

Beauty and the Beast is based on a revision to Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 1740 novel by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Both were heavily influenced by Cinderella’s writer, Charles Perrault, though the story was originally based on a common French fairy tale which was itself an adaptation of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.  Disney named Belle’s village Villeneuve after the original author, though their story is much closer to deBeaumont’s revision. As just one example, the Beast in Villeneuve’s version is quite unintelligent–more animal than man. In Disney’s version, the Beast retains his human intelligence and mind but is physically transformed into the Beast.
The original Beauty and the Beast (cartoon) came out in 1991. It’s considered the apex of the so-called Disney Renaissance of the late 80s and 90s and possibly the greatest of all the animated films. Certainly, Belle is one of the most popular princesses, if not the most popular (Only maybe Elsa from Frozen could equal Belle). It is my personal favorite too, and I’m not alone in that. What makes this story so (nearly) universally adored?
Belle is a misfit. We’re told, explicitly in her introduction, that she’s odd, strange, different. She’s the bookworm princess. And immediately became the avatar for all the girl bookworms out there. She’s also brunette and common-born–a striking change from all the princesses before her (Snow White, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, and Ariel from the Little Mermaid are born princesses. Cinderella is born of the gentry but made to act as a servant, like Snow White.) Unlike Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, Belle is not waiting around to be rescued by the prince someday. Belle’s big “I Want” song says she wants adventure in the great wide somewhere. And, of course, in the manner of all fairy tales, she gets what she wishes for, in spades.
In addition to being a fairy tale, this is, by far, the strongest romance Disney gives us. So, for me as a romance writer, why does this particular romance work so well? Here’s what I think.
In the way of many, many romances, both Belle AND the Beast arc (change) from active dislike to respect to friendship and finally, in the end, to love. She actually says this in the lyrics of Something There: “He was mean, coarse, unrefined but now he’s dear and so unsure.” It’s the classic case of false impressions. At first, he was nasty and mean but now, because she’s getting to know him, she sees him differently. As they’ve become friends, she’s gotten to know him—she sees the real man behind the mask of the beast. Significantly, he ALSO knows her—her favorite book, her childhood (in a gorgeous, touching scene in the live-action), giving her the library.
This is a key factor in romance. The lovers see the real person behind the social mask—or, as the tagline says it, “Beauty lies within.” In the end, after Beast transforms into the prince, Belle knows him by his eyes—the window to the soul. She sees the person within and recognizes him. This is also why, in the famous dance sequence, they have such strong eye-contact (it’s the copulatory gaze in action). They SEE each other, past their outward appearances to the person within. Powerful stuff.
In contrast, we have Gaston who mocks Belle’s reading in their first meeting. He prepares their wedding as a fait accompli and proposes by presenting his vision of her as broodmare and housemate–fates that Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora actively wanted. Gaston also doesn’t appear to know Belle’s backstory at all. What Gaston knows is that Belle is beautiful. She’s ornamental to him. He sees her lovely exterior but is clueless about the person within. She’s one more trophy for him to hang on the wall. Can you imagine any scenario where Gaston would have given Belle even one book, not to mention an entire library?
Gaston is the actual ideal male, in this society at least. His song tells us so—he’s perfect, a pure paragon. The Bimbettes in town squee over him. He’s a war hero, in the live action, a great hunter, tall, dark, handsome. And just the slightest bit mirror obsessed. He’s also vain (a huge no-no, as we know from Snow White) and sees Belle as a way to augment that vanity. He says in the song Belle, she’s the most beautiful girl in the village so therefore she’s the best, and so I’m going to marry her because don’t I deserve the best?
There’s also an argument to be made that, before the curse, Prince Adam (yes, that’s the Beast’s real name) was also an example of the ideal male in this society. He’s princely, rich, handsome, well-educated, as well as spoiled, careless, selfish, and cold. It’s not hard to imagine that pre-curse Prince Adam making a similar argument about Belle that Gaston does in the beginning—she’s beautiful (on the outside) and therefore mine. No need to look any further.
He wouldn’t say it by the end though, and that’s how you know he’s changed. But, by enduring the curse and falling in love with Belle, the Beast transforms. He learns to love and be loved in return (the actual curse). He changes. Gaston doesn’t. That’s why the Beast gets to be the hero!
How about the two greatest objections to the story–Stockholm Syndrome and Abusive Relationships? More on that coming up as well as my full review of the movie.

Disney, Writing

What Building Legos Taught Me About Writing

So, we recently enjoyed Fox’s two week holiday break from school (also known as “No, you will not write so much as a sentence, Mommy! No productivity for you!”). Santa as well as wonderful family members and friends brought Fox lots of Legos for Christmas. His gift to me was the Cinderella’s Lego carriage.

Cindy's carriage


Suffice it to say that Fox and I spent a lot of time on Christmas break building with the tiny little bricks (aka manicure ruiners and impromptu burglar device—you ever stepped on one? Yeouch!)

Anyway, while building my 87 step tow truck, I reflected on what building Legos can teach you about writing.


1) The picture on the front of the box looks great. Just like the mental picture of your perfect, beautiful story with the clever dialogue and gorgeous metaphors. And then, in reality, you put the sticker on crooked (or backwards) and it never comes out just like the photo on the box. That’s okay. It’s still a beautiful Lego tow truck or a novel. Whichever.

2) Takes longer than you expect. I hoped that I could finish our car carrier in something less than a lunar month. Maybe not. Just like a novel, it takes way longer than you thought it would to put together 300 Lego pieces into something resembling the intended creation. That’s ok. Take however much time you need.


3) You’ll always have extra pieces. I think Lego puts extras in there just so you’re never entirely sure that you followed the directions properly. No matter what happens, there are going to be pieces of the story—scenes, dialogue, description, the entire third act—that you don’t need for the final version. Keep them in a handy-dandy ziploc. You might need them for that next project—Lego or otherwise.

4) There’s a point in every project where you’d like to toss it across the room. For Lego, this usually happened around step twenty. For writing, it’s usually just past the mid-point where I decide hate the story, every character in it is too stupid to live, I must have been drunk when I came up with the idea and I should never again scribble notes in the middle of the night… At that moment, maybe take a short break, grab a juice box, and just breathe for a bit. Then, keep going. You’ll never build that 700+ piece castle if you quit. Same for your novel.


Now, time to get back to mine…

Disney, Photography

Cruising on the Disney Dream

So, since I got hit with the plague in December, I forgot to tell you guys about my Disney cruise over Thanksgiving. Fox, the Pilot, and I sailed on the Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral for a four night cruise of the Bahamas.

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We stayed on deck five in a deluxe stateroom. I chose deck five because of the extra large veranda which we loved having but it also turned out to be on the same deck as the kids areas and close to the restaurants. I highly recommend this choice. The staterooms are very narrow and I hated that we had to walk past the bed to get to the living room. I seemed to constantly be tripping over the bed. The bathrooms are split, with sinks in each which really helped get ready to go in the morning.


Our first port was Nassau but, on the wise advice of our travel agent, we decided not to go ashore and enjoy our day on the ship. Fox loved the Aquaduct, a clear waterside that goes around the ship. I rode it once but found it challenging to ride with contacts in and am still mourning the loss of my favorite hair clip. They spray water in your face at different points. Fox did not view this as the challenge that I did and adored riding the Aquaduct at every opportunity. He also loved playing in Nemo’s Reef (an adorably themed water playground) and the two pools.



The second port was Disney’s private island at Castaway Cay. We loved spending the day on our own private beach. I highly recommend renting the inner tubes in advance, though we were able to do so on the island. We enjoyed a restful day at the beach before heading back to our giant floating hotel.



Our third day, Thanksgiving, was at sea. As our travel agent correctly predicted, the pools and amenities were far more crowded that day. It was also windy and cold on the deck as we sailed up the Atlantic. That night, though at sea, we could see stars for miles. Even though it was cold and breezy, we loved identifying constellations from our balcony



Fox really loved the Oceanears club. He still talks about the different activities, especially the dance parties, they had there. Because we sailed on a Very Merrytime Cruise, the ships were already decorated for Christmas. They did an amazing job with a life sized gingerbread house and gorgeous garland and trees everywhere.


So, how was Thanksgiving dinner? It was the best one ever. They served perfectly moist turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and roasted veggies. I loved the roasted parsnips as an addition to the meal and think it will be making an appearance on our Thanksgiving table next year. There are three dining rooms on the ship and your assigned servers rotate with you every night.


Animator’s Palate is a fun theme that uses the latest technology to give the kids an interactive experience with Crush, the turtle from Nemo. He chatted with Fox and it’s still the highlight of his cruise experience. He’ll tell anyone that will listen that he talked to Crush. Our second night was our least favorite restaurant. It’s the Enchanted Garden. The restaurant itself is pretty but the food is reminiscent of the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. Just okay, not great. The Pilot and I loved the Royal Court restaurant, decorated with a Cinderella theme and with the best food of all.

For me, one thing that I struggled with was not being able to be connected much while at sea. When I worked in an office, I would have welcomed the chance to be incommunicado. Now, as a full-time writer, I did not like feeling out of touch. The Pilot and I cruised for our honeymoon and I never worried about safety but I have to admit to a touch of vulnerability and anxiety about something going wrong while we were sailing with Fox.


If you ever have the opportunity to take a Disney Cruise, do it. It’s well worth the fun and the memories. Fox wants to go on the other three ships (Fantasy, Magic, and Wonder) and even informed his grandparents over the holidays that he’s spending his birthday in Alaska (probably not this upcoming one though 🙂