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Disney classics you may have missed during the boycott

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–During the boycott of Disney, Southern Baptists missed a whole lot of films worth passing up, but there were a few worthy efforts by Disney that are now on DVD/video.

These films are not devoid of all questionable content, but they are entertaining films that possess positive and uplifting statements. Parents should screen each one to determine if it is suitable for their family to enjoy.

ENDURANCE (1999). This inspirational documentary focuses on international track star Haile Gebrselassie, a young man who overcame obstacles to attain his goal of becoming the world’s fastest long-distance runner. Admittedly, the film has a church feel, but it is very inspiring, with beautiful cinematography, a super score and a reverence for God. (Prayer and Bible study are a part of this family’s life.) Rated G, I found nothing objectionable. However, there are scenes of extreme poverty and our hero’s beloved mother dies off screen. This may be upsetting to little ones, but it is a fact of life: Loved ones die. Perhaps this is a reminder to us all never to take our family for granted.

TARZAN (1999). This animated version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle man mixes equal amounts of humor and action, with a couple of life lessons and a gentle romance thrown in for good measure. Tarzan is portrayed as kindhearted, a respecter of living things and able to defeat prejudice with patience and humility, while overcoming evil through cunning and strength. Rated G, it contains a couple of intense battle scenes that may frighten very young children. There’s much action and, as in many Disney films, a family member dies. Parents should be close by to reassure little ones.

TOY STORY 2 (1999). Buzz Lightyear and Andy’s other toys spring into action when a thieving toy collector steals Woody in order to sell him to a museum in Japan. There’s plenty of excitement and fun, as the toys get into one predicament after another in their daring race to get to their pal before he’s shipped overseas. This is Disney at its best, with lessons about friendship and making choices. Taking the art of computer animation to the next plateau, the film utilized state-of-the-art technology, while the inventive writers gave the story layers and nuance. Rated G, it contains some violent and suspenseful imagery during the opening sequence and Woody has a scary dream. The material is handled with responsibility, but a guardian should view with very little ones in order to reassure.

THE MIRACLE MAKER (2000). ABC (owned by Disney) presented a full-length feature film about the life of Jesus on Easter Sunday of that year. With the use of claymation and graphically striking two-dimensional animation, the story presented the life of Jesus through the eyes of a sick little girl who encounters the Christ through different stages of His ministry. Using this child as a composite of different people who experienced Christ’s healing powers, The Miracle Maker was able to relate the Jesus of the Bible to little ones, without sacrificing the integrity of the Gospels. Rated TV–G due to Christ’s crucifixion, but the content is handled with discretion.

FANTASIA 2000 (2000). Written by Roy Disney and others, this update of “Fantasia” contains the original segment, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the 1940 film, with seven new sequences, each introduced by diverse celebrities such as Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Itzhak Perlman, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, Quincy Jones, Angela Lansbury and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

Ultimately, Fantasia 2000 is truly uplifting and it simply dazzles the senses. My favorite piece combines the sophisticated music of George Gershwin and the unmistakable linear style of Al Hirschfeld. “Rhapsody in Blue” is without question the quintessential sophisticated jazz piece of its time. Maybe of all time. And Hirschfeld’s whimsical view of people’s foibles is delightfully revealing. Together, with the narrative of diverse characters weaving in and out of each other’s lives during the course of their daily routines, these two masters of their respective fields return the word erudite to storytelling.

Another favorite is the touching segment with Donald Duck boarding animals on the Ark to the lively rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.” It is both funny and poignant as Donald and his lady faire, Daisy, become separated before the journey begins only to be reunited by segment’s end.

Fantasia 2000 was the most joyous movie conception of that year. Walt would have been proud! Rated G — as a child, the magician in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was a bit frightening to me. It is, however, not so much about magic as it is about a timid being who wants to do his best. In the last segment, nature is personified in the form of an earth-mother nymph in a parable about death and rebirth.

LILO & STITCH (2002). Lilo is a lonely Hawaiian girl who adopts a small ugly “dog,” whom she names Stitch. Stitch would be the perfect pet if he weren’t in reality a genetic experiment who has escaped from an alien planet and crash-landed on Earth. Through her love, faith and unwavering belief in “ohana” (the Hawaiian concept of family), Lilo helps unlock Stitch’s heart and gives him the one thing he was never designed to have –- the ability to care for someone else.

The film salutes Hawaiians and, rather than attempting to make the characters Anglo-looking, the cartoonists gave them a true ethnic look. Especially fun was the little girl’s fascination with Elvis Presley. The score incorporated several of his songs, placing them meaningfully throughout the story. (At last, Elvis got to be in a good movie!)

Rated PG, Lilo, angry with her snobbish classmates, is seen looking through a book on voodoo as if she is going to cast a spell -– this is played for a laugh, with no other reference to occult themes, and she eventually apologizes for fighting with the other girls. Due to the subject matter of the loss of family members and the sometime sadness of the little girl, parents should view the film with little ones in order to comfort if needed; a couple of the space creatures may frighten very little ones, but I think the accompanying humor will soften any potentially scary scenes. While the story does deal with alien life forms, it is really an allegory, teaching lessons about caring for others, forgiveness and the importance of family.

TREASURE PLANET (2002). Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” this animated update has 15-year-old Jim Hawkins joining the crew of an intergalactic expedition as a cabin boy aboard a glittering space galleon. Befriended by the ship’s charismatic cyborg cook John Silver, Jim blossoms under his guidance, and shows the makings of a fine crewman as he and the alien crew battle supernovas, black holes and ferocious space storms. But even greater dangers lie ahead when Jim discovers that his trusted friend Silver is actually a scheming pirate with mutiny in mind.

Disney utilized state-of-the-art animation for the film, combined with the best of hand-drawn cartooning. In keeping with all Disney greats, Treasure Planet has a visually stunning look, combining swashbuckling adventure with a warmth in its characters. Also, there are important messages concerning friendship, integrity and self-sacrifice interwoven into the action. Rated PG, I found nothing objectionable, but the film has some exciting buccaneer action scenes that may frighten little ones. And the story does include a father who abandoned his wife and child.

HOLES (2003). Dogged by bad luck stemming from an ancient family curse, Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) has little clue that he’s in for the adventure of his life when sent to Camp Green Lake. There he and fellow campmates are forced by the camp’s director, known only as “The Warden,” and her henchman, Mr. Sir, to dig holes in order to “build character.” Nobody knows the real reason they’re digging all these holes, but Stanley soon begins to question why the head of the camp is so interested in anything special the boys find. Through it all, Stanley and his new friends must stick together as they attempt to discover what’s really hidden, solve the mystery, and break the Yelnats family curse.

Partnered with Disney distribution, fledgling production company Walden Media digs up a real treasure with this concept. Both its star and script are compelling. What a pleasure it was to come across a film aimed at teens and preteens that’s both humorous and insightful. Screenwriter Louis Sachar bypassed off-color dialogue and the usual adolescent crudities, focusing on an involving and suspenseful adventure. The lead rises above trying situations, not only to survive, but to thrive as well.

Rated PG, it contains a couple of minor expletives, but I caught no other harsh or profane language; there are a few scary moments, with adventurous teens placed in peril; there are a few violent acts, most in a story retold about the old West, but not exceedingly graphic; the camp is set in the desert where there are poisonous reptiles; a couple of scenes featuring these prehistoric-looking lizards are jolting and scary, but salved with humor; in the flashback story, a black man and a white woman fall in love, an act presented as against the law during that period, which leads to a tragedy perpetrated by a bigoted mob. The violence is not exploitive but used to point out wrongdoing.

THE INCREDIBLES (2004). This hilarious, action-packed animated adventure has put-upon superheroes denying their superpowers and living under a government protection plan (themselves the victims of sue-happy citizens once protected by the super do-gooders: “Who asked you to save me?”).

Taking on grown-up themes such as the suspicion of infidelity and a barrage of violent do-or-die histrionics, Pixar Animation Studios, filmmaker Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant”) and Disney Studios incorporated cartoonish slapstick with thoughtful PG-rated wit. Along with vivid animation techniques, every other element of the production has been given special attention, including story, character development and dialogue. What’s more, a sincere respect for audience members is paid, no matter the age.

It’s a hoot. But beware, some young ones might be disturbed by the plights of our heroes. Keep in mind, this is a story about superheroes and dastardly villains. Though this film is creative, funny and addresses life issues, it is an action/adventure about superheroes, which means it contains violent acts of derring-do.

Rated PG, there are positive family values, including the portrayal of married parents with a healthy love for one another, and kids, though they bicker, who come through when their siblings are in danger. The film steers clear of crudity and off-color language, receiving its rating for thematic intensity and violent activity that includes explosions, chases, attacking robots, and our heroes placed in perilous predicaments time and again.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright