Seven-year-old me wanted to be a Disney princess more than anything. I’d watched the classics on my trusty VHS player until all the best bits had gone fuzzy from being rewound too many times. I once tried combing my hair with a fork à la Ariel and even went through a phase of greeting everyone in my little town/quiet village with an enthusiastic ‘bonjour!’. Despite now approaching my third decade, and having had to come to terms with the sad realisation that there won’t always be a band of mice and magic birds on hand to help out with the vacuuming and that I’ll probably never have a sassy talking animal or enchanted appliance for a bestie, I still turn to Disney in moments of need. And, certain as the sun, it always delivers, especially when that need is for a banging motivational tune. Anyone still in the throes of exams, look no further than Go The Distance or I’ll Make A Man Out Of You for your perfect soundtrack to revision.
Disney ain’t no passing craze, guys. Is there a piece of cinematic mastery more moving than the opening scene – nay, every single scene! – of the Lion King? I think not, but for any doubters, let me take you wonder by wonder through the magic of Disney. And you can bet, before we’re through, somehow I’ll make a fan out of you.
You see, I’ve been thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) that Disney films have some of the best life lessons going; don’t judge a book/beast/teapot by its cover, be true to your heart, and the right path is not always the easiest one. I still couldn’t tell you exactly what Colours of the Wind is all about, but I now know that I want to paint with them, more than anything. From the likes of Grandmother Willow, Laverne the gargoyle and co., you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.
The list goes on; we’ve all found out that stars are the great kings of the past watching over us, that accepting fruit from creepy old ladies never ends well, how to speak whale – thanks Dory – and, crucially, that everybody wants to be a cat. Anyone who wants to whinge about sexism and weak female leads in Disney need look no further than Meg from Hercules, Mulan, or Mulan’s grandma for that matter, ‘Sign me up for the next war!’ being one of my favourite Disney quotes. As Walt himself said, the princesses believe in dreams, but they also believe in doing something about them.
Now, gems of wisdom about flowers blooming in adversity and everyone being connected because the antelope eat our dead bodies are all very well, but when you’ve got two essay deadlines a week and your tutors have got you scared to death, you’d be forgiven for thinking you don’t have time for Mushu and Zazu’s shenanigans. But forget about your worries and/or strife; Disney offers more than just the bare necessities to get you through that degree. Fellow linguists, watching Disney in your chosen language is the way to go, and there’s really nothing like the satisfaction of being the only one who knows what ‘hunchback’ is in Italian when it pops up in a translation. In fact, the Disney classics are a vital supplement to most subjects’ reading lists. PPEists, Rafiki alone provides enough food for thought to set you well on your way to a first class Philosophy essay (probably). Classicists, Hercules has got it covered. English students, the Lion King is basically Hamlet with lions. And even the more niche subjects aren’t forgotten; for the enthusiastic Arch&Anther, ‘Mine Mine Mine’ from Pocahontas is your anthem.
Dig out and dust off your old Disney favourites, and somewhere on the journey to becoming king/a princess/a lion you may well find there’s something there that wasn’t there before, be it an inspirational message or just a witty pun you never got as a child. People might think you’re mad, bonkers, off your head, but as the Mad Hatter says, all the best people are.