Journal Entry – The Future

***This was written on October 28, 2015***

My Me,
How’s it going, Bro. B.I.B.? Are you doing alright? Are you smiling? How’s your relationship with God? Do you remember who He is and what He’s able and willing to do?
As of now, it’s been almost 6 months since graduation. I know things have not been going according to plan. You don’t have a job, you don’t have much money, and you’ve only had a couple of gigs. You still want to be out of this house this time in 2 years, but you don’t have money for food right now, let alone money for a can and an apartment. You have a girlfriend who you’re madly in love with and want to take care of. I know I am you, and I know this will be an old letter the next time you read this – despite how soon that will be. But you know that I want to help people, and one of the best ways I can do that is by helping myself. Do, here’s what I’m going to tell you:
First of all, don’t you ever forget about Jesus. Call out His Name. Shout it as loud as you need to. Always seek Him, pursue Him, and increase your knowledge and understand of Him. When your situations are the darkest, that’s when your faith in God has to shine the brightest. Never stop praising Him. Don’t you dare stop worshipping Him. Sing unto Him. Believe in Him. Grow in Him.
Second of all, don’t doubt yourself. Don’t stop believing in yourself. If the same Jesus who can do anything but fail lives in you, don’t you dare think for a second that you’re going to fail! You are talented! You are smart! You are strong! Live like you are! Act like you are! Look in the mirror every day and every night and proclaim blessings over yourself! And go ahead and smile while you’re at it!
Third of all, where are you going? What are you doing? What do you want to achieve? You have to know that in order to know what to do next. The ultimate goal is to own your own production company, right? You want to star in, write, produce, direct, and own your own plays, films, and web and TV shows, right? OK, so how can we get there? Write down your dream, and write out a plan to get there. It’ll take some thinking, but you can do it. Get started on that soon – today!
Bro. B.I.B., God has great things in store for you. Lift up your head. Don’t stop looking to your Savior. He’s got you in the palm of His Hand. You will get there! You are there! Do me a favor, look around at your surroundings. Now praise your Jesus!

Love,

Benjamin Isaiah Black

(c) October 2015, B.I.B. Productions
(P) BOOYIKA!, Inc.

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MOVIE REVIEWS: The Great Muppet Caper (Jim Henson, 1981)

The Great Muppet Caper

The Muppet Movie was amazingly popular. It was the tenth highest grossing movie in 1979, making over $65 million, which would be nearly $217 million today. But the Muppets didn’t stop there. The Muppet Show continued another 2 years on television, Sesame Street was still going strong, they kept producing albums and television specials, and the Muppets continued making special appearances on talk shows. Two years later, it seemed as though the Muppets wanted to make another movie. This picture, directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson, is known as The Great Muppet Caper. I know I said that The Muppet Movie is the best Muppet movie, but this film is my favorite Muppet movie! Not only that, but this is also one of my favorite comedies ever! This film is hilarious! It’s mind blowingly (yes I just made that up) incredible how funny this is! Whereas the first movie had heart and even an artistic edge to accompany the comedy, this film focuses mostly on the comedy. That isn’t to say this film isn’t artistic either, but anyone who watches this will bet the filmmakers wanted to make all of the jokes they could in this film. Let’s get into it.

STORY: The story’s OK. Much like The Muppet Movie, this film has a simple plot. There’s more going on here, but it’s relatively simple. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo, reporters for a newspaper, fly to England to cover a story surrounding the robbery of fashion designer Lady Holiday. Upon their investigation, they discover that the person behind these robberies is Holiday’s brother Nicky. I don’t think I’m ruining anything when I say that because the movie gives that away pretty early…Actually, that’s kind of my problem with the story. I understand it’s a caper and the story focuses on the heroes figuring out the mystery the audience already knows the answer to. But it takes a while for the heroes to figure out the mystery, and the story drags. Fortunately, the movie is filled with other great and entertaining things to keep the audience interested, but the story does drag and isn’t that captivating.
One of the interesting things about Muppet movies, beginning with this one, is they aren’t connected. They don’t follow a consistent story line; they don’t even really follow the lives of the Muppets. These movies have set a tone where literally anything can happen. If you’re expecting this to be a sequel to the last Muppet film, think again! Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo are reporters for a newspaper, as I said earlier, and they fly to England where they meet the other Muppets at the Happiness Hotel. Piggy meets Kermit in London, where she flew to model for Lady Holiday…What part of that reminds you of the plot of the first movie? The Muppets are meeting for the first time in this film, with the exception of Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo. If you find yourself thinking this is a sequel and demand to know how the Muppets continue to meet over and over again, you’ll be confused and aggravated. However, if you accept the fact the sky is the limit for their films, you’ll have a good time. Really, that’s what these films promise us anyway: a good time. The stories don’t have to be consistent; they focus more so on being entertaining and fun for the audience. That what this story is, and so it’s fine.
The Great Muppet Caper - Story

HUMAN CHARACTERS AND CAMEOS: There’s not a whole lot to say about the live action human stars in this film, so let’s just hurry up and dive in.
1) Lady Holiday – Lady Holiday is OK. She’s not the most interesting character. There’s not really that much to her character; she’s snoody and pompous because of her riches and title. That’s about it. She’s just not that exciting to be around. With that being said, though, I honestly do like her. I know that sounds odd, but let me explain. First of all, the human characters in a Muppet movie are never supposed to be more compelling or entertaining than the Muppets. We’re not here to see Lady Holiday – who the crud even is she? Bring on the frog! Second of all, there are some moments Lady Holiday stands out a little. She often throws out a very funny line. I laugh at her early in the film when she reviews the outfits for the fashion show. Why in the world did she pour ink on someone’s clothes?! I do like how snoody and pompous she can be. She’s never too mean to the point that you want something bad to happen to her. She’s quite reserved in her pompousness, but it’s played up enough so the audience can enjoy her. Actress Diana Rigg portrayed her well. I like her.
The Great Muppet Caper - Lady Holiday
2) Nicky – I actually find Nicky interesting. I love how unsubtle this guy is! Of course we learn within the first 5 minutes that he’s the villain, what with his attire and the music. But when you spend more time with him, you find yourself loving how over the top he is. I enjoy Charles Grodin’s portrayal of him! I love the way he said “And me” at the beginning. I love the way he speaks to his sister in the supper club – mainly when he says, “Thieves aren’t breathing down your neck!” I ADORE how he goes nuts over Miss Piggy! But my favorite part of his performance comes when he frames Piggy after her dream sequence! Listen to his response when Piggy figures out what he’s doing! It’s a riot! I can’t help but love this guy! I can’t really say this is a bad performance necessarily. In fact, you could argue that this is the way the character is supposed to be played. Like I said before, Muppet movies are very aware of themselves, and Nicky comes out and says, “I’m a villain” in the film. He eats up his villainy like candy! We enjoy it because he does!
The Great Muppet Caper - Nicky

There aren’t as many cameo guest stars in this film, but they serve more of a purpose here than they did in the last movie. Jack Warden, for example, is Mike Tarkenian, the editor of the newspaper Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo work for. Robert Morley is the British gentlemen by the pond; he’s the one who tells Kermit about the Happiness Hotel. John Cleese refers Piggy and Kermit to the supper club for dinner. Peter Ustinov drives the truck Piggy uses to help get her to the Mallory Gallery. Peter Falk…is just a man who strikes up conversation with Kermit; he’s pretty worthless to the plot. Although, I do like him trying to figure out the story behind the glass slipper Kermit’s holding. Also, Oscar the Grouch makes a quick cameo here! He has 2 lines with Ustinov after he’s thrown in a pile of trashcans. My favorite is either Falk or Oscar – their dialogue is hilarious!
The Great Muppet Caper - Cameo 1The Great Muppet Caper - Cameo 2

While you may or may not recognize those celebrity guest stars, have you ever noticed any of the other cameos in this film from the Muppet performers? Yes, some of the Muppet performers make quick appearances in the movie without a character on their hand. Richard Hunt can be seen driving Kathryn Mullen in a taxi during the opening number. Frank Oz makes an appearance somewhere behind Gonzo in the office of the Daily Chronicle. Jerry Nelson was the one walking with his daughter in the park when they passed Kermit holding Piggy’s slipper on the bench. And, of course, Jim Henson is in the supper club when Gonzo approaches him and asks to take his picture for $10.
The Great Muppet Caper - Cameo 3

SONGS/MUSIC: The songs in this movie are really good! They serve more of a purpose to the situations here than they did in The Muppet Movie. It’s important to mention that the writer and composer of the songs and score is the late and the great Joe Raposo (1937-1989). In addition to writing music for shows like Three’s Company and The Electric Company, Raposo may be most famous for his musical contributions to Sesame Street. In addition to writing the show’s theme song, he also wrote “ABC-DEF-GHI,” “Bein’ Green,” “C is for Cookie,” “Sing,” and many, many more. Oh, yeah! This guy wrote part of your childhood playlist! Let’s go over his songs for this film.
1) Hey A Movie!/(Reprise): I think Gonzo described this song best at the beginning of the film, “What a fantastic beginning!” This song lets us know we’re in for a good time. We can just focus on being entertained. We all know what kind of film we’re watching. The sole purpose here is to laugh and be entertained. I love it. I love this song!

2) Happiness Hotel: This song is hilarious! Who in their right crudded mind would ever agree to stay at a hotel so awful? The guests stay there like it’s their home? There’s no kitchen or food? The elevator doesn’t work? The building doesn’t even have the right address?! This is the worst place to lodge, and no one is hiding that fact. Yet their blunt honesty and friendly personalities somehow makes this the best place to stay. How in the world this becomes the worst and the best place to stay simultaneously, I don’t know. I love the irony in that, but I mainly love the humor that comes from the lyrics. The song itself is simply funny as crud. It’s a great number!

3) Steppin’ Out With a Star: There’s not a whole lot to say about this number. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s catchy. Is it wrong I think of this number as the Muppets’ equivalent to “Movin’ On Up to the East Side?” Maybe, but who cares? I could say more, but I don’t think I need to. This is just an enjoyable Muppet song, and those hardly ever fail. It certainly doesn’t fail here! This song is great!

4) Night Life: I have mixed feelings about this song. It’s not very memorable. This is one of the last songs I think about whenever I name Muppet movie songs. To be fair, though, I don’t think it’s supposed to be that memorable. The song doesn’t draw as much focus and attention as the other songs in this film. In this scene, we’re mainly focused on watching the Muppets get to the supper club. Despite all that, however, this is still a fun song. This is exactly the type of song the Electric Mayhem would perform. The music rocks hard, and Dr. Teeth’s vocals are rough. It’s a nice song, but it’s not the best Muppet movie song.

5) The First Time it Happens: This is such a lovely number. Every element of the song makes it great: the lyrics, the music, the main and background vocalists, the tempo, the progression – everything about the song is delightful. It’s very regal and romantic. I like that; and give this song credit for being nominated for an Oscar. There’s not much else to say except if you haven’t heard this song yet, look it up. The first time it happens, you won’t be disappointed.

(This is the best version I could get.)
6) Couldn’t We Ride: This song is so beautiful to me. If “Movin’ Right Along” is the song we sing when we go on long drives, this is the song we all need to sing when we ride our bikes. It’s just a lovely, peaceful song. It’s like the song you want to sing when you want to forget about your worries for a moment. I love this song in the movie, and I love it just as much as a stand alone song. Raposo really outdid himself!

7) Piggy’s Fantasy: This song, and the scene it’s shown in, teaches us how to fantasize! It’s over the top! It’s big! It’s gorgeous! It’s fancy! Really, it’s played up as one big joke. Even so, the song still sounds amazing! If you took Miss Piggy, the context, and the lyrics away, you would think this music was taken from a ballet or an opera. Based on how these songs sound alone, I’m surprised only one of these songs was nominated for an Oscar. Regardless, this song is just great!

(This is the best version I could get.)

PUPPETRY: It is amazing to me what lengths Jim Henson and his team will go to in order to make these characters real. The puppetry in this film rivals that from The Muppet Movie! There are amazing feats of puppetry performed throughout the entire film, but let me share the two moments that stand out to me the most: (1) The Muppets climbing up the side of the Mallory Gallery. I’m surprised I’ve never heard people talk about this scene. I accepted it as a kid because I knew these characters were real. Now as a young adult, I keep asking myself how this happened whenever I see this scene. Were the characters radio controlled? Were they marionettes? How in the world was this stunt accomplished? Whether I get to figure it out or not, I love that moment! (2) The bicycle scene. Like everyone else, I am blown away by the bicycle scene! It’s so amazing! It’s so incredible! How in the world did the filmmakers think of this? How in the world did they pull it off? Rather than just having the Muppets ride bikes like they had Kermit do in the first movie, now we have Kermit and Piggy riding in circles around each other and Kermit standing up on his bike to perform stunts. That is incredible! This is the type of genius creativity that makes us love the Muppets so much!
The Great Muppet Caper - PuppetryThe Great Muppet Caper 01

COMEDY: I can easily declare the comedy the best element of this film! These jokes are not only funny, but they’re creative and smart! Watching this film as a teenager, I realized the difference between comedy directed to children and adult comedy. Kids don’t often understand everything that’s being said, so most of what they laugh at in family films come from what they see. Youth and adults, however, can understand a lot more, thus they laugh at both what they see and hear. There’s no way I can talk about the comedy in this film without giving some of the jokes away. I’ll only talk about a few of them, but they are hilarious and I am in love with them!
Kermit and Fozzie are twins. That’s right! In this film, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are twins – not just twins, but identical twins! The best way to see the resemblance is when they both wear hats! This joke is so strange and surreal, you can’t help but laugh! It is a creative and hilarious joke! I don’t know how the filmmakers thought of this or made it up, but it works so well!
Lady Holiday’s rant about Nicky. After Piggy gets hired as a receptionist (which is a totally different joke), Lady Holiday delivers an unwarranted monologue about her brother Nicky. After she’s done, Piggy asks her, “Why are you telling me all this?” Lady Holiday replies, “It’s plot exposition, it must go somewhere. Anyway…” I LOVE IT!!! Not only is that a fantastic and subtle fourth wall joke, but it’s also a great punch line for a speech that had nothing to do with anything! I wish all dialogue in movies that were unrelated to the plot ended in some hilarious joke.
Sam’s proud heritage. After Piggy get arrested, the rest of the Muppets gather together in the Happiness Hotel to discuss what to do. Fozzie makes a patriotic speech about how they all need to help bring Piggy justice. After everyone begins agreeing with him, Sam the Eagle (who wasn’t already in the room) leans in and says “It’s times like this I am proud to be an American.” On the surface, the joke is funny because Sam came in out of nowhere and because the moment was very patriotic. However, I thought of another reason why this joke really works. The Muppets are currently in England! Who the crud cares you’re proud to be an American? I find humor in the irony of that!
These are just a few of the tons of hilarious jokes that are found throughout this film! The movie is full of joke after joke – they’re all on top of each other. It’s clear that the focus of the movie was on the entertainment and humor, and it did not disappoint at all!
The Great Muppet Caper - ComedyThe Great Muppet Caper - Comedy 01The Great Muppet Caper - Comedy 02

CONCLUSION: I love this movie! The story lags a bit, but the movie more than makes up for that with all the other elements! The live-action human characters are likeable and entertaining. The songs are wonderful! The puppetry is outstanding! The jokes are hilarious! It’d be wrong of me to say this is the best Muppet film – again, I think that title belongs to The Muppet Movie. However, this is not only a strong Muppet film, but it’s also my favorite! The comedy alone is worth watching the film, but it has wonderful characters and songs to support it as well! I look forward to watching it more and more in the future!
The Great Muppet Caper - Conclusion

Benjamin Isaiah Black’s “FINALE: Curtain Call”

***This was performed live on April 22, 2015***

This was the last show I performed before I graduated. It’s me doing what I do best, doing what I love to do. It’s poetry, it’s mime, it’s film, it’s theatre, it’s music, it’s entertainment, it’s inspiring, it’s encouraging, it’s uplifting, it’s art, it’s godly. I hope you enjoy it! God bless you, and I love you!

(c) April 2015, B.I.B. Productions

MOVIE REVIEWS: The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)

The Lion King Poster

YEAH MAN!!! This is my favorite Disney movie EVER! Like so many other people all over the world, I am madly in love with this film! It’s just incredible! It is an unbelievable film! It’s smart, it’s artistic, it’s entertaining, it’s emotional – it’s just a great movie! But what exactly makes it so great? Well, let’s find out.

ANIMATION: The animation is great! I love the way the designers capture the look of the Savannah in Africa! It looks so amazing and breath-taking! But the look of the movie is also influenced based on epic and mythological backgrounds, like something that would come out of a Greek mythological tale. That adds so much weight to the epicness this movie contains. That’s really the best way to describe the look of the movie: epic. It is so large and grand. The stampede scene has got to be the biggest and most epic scene ever put to traditional animation! I also love how real the animals are! Not only do they look real, but they move in a realistic way. When you see the lions walk, you see the bones in their bodies move as well! I love that detail! It’s just awesome!
The Lion King - Stampede

SONGS/MUSIC: I LOVE the music and songs in this film! Before I get to the songs, there are two things to address. First of all, Lebo M., a South African musician, does not get enough credit for his contribution to the music of this film! It was because of him, his arrangements, and his choir that the songs and the score sounded like it came from Africa (…although we don’t know the exact country this movie takes place in – that’s confusing). The music would sound completely out of place if it were not for Lebo M., and he needs to be acknowledged more! Secondly, Hans Zimmer’s score is AWESOME! My word, it is so epic! I am in love with the score! If this score were a woman, I’d marry her! I love the “Lea Halalela” theme that plays throughout the film! It is beautiful! It is grand! It is epic! I love humming along to this score! But, of course, when people think of the music of this movie they think of the songs. These numbers, written by Tim Rice and Elton John, have definitely left a huge impact on so many people all over the world! ALL of these songs are wonderful, and they all stand out! Unlike the Disney films that came before and after this film, this movie doesn’t have one Number One song – ALL the songs are Number Ones! You instantly remember each of them at the mention of their titles! If I were to ask a large group of people to name me a song from The Little Mermaid or Aladdin, most of them would say “Under the Sea” and “A Whole New World.” If I asked that same group to name me a song from The Lion King, some of them would say “Circle of Life.” Others would say “Hakuna Matata,” and others would say “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” So, let’s go through them!
1) Circle of Life/(Reprise): My WORD, what a great opening! Again, it’s just so big and grand! It was such a smart move of the filmmakers to remove the dialogue from the opening and just use this song to speak for itself! Also, this song embodies one of the themes of the movie. It talks about the delicate balance of life and the appreciation for the circle of life. It is a great message, a great song, and a great opening!

2) Morning Report: The only reason I’m including this song is because a lot of people are familiar with it thanks to the Special Edition DVD released in 2003. I don’t like this number that much. It doesn’t add anything to the film, but it does take more of my time away from me. If you’re listening to this song in the Broadway play, the song works OK. That’s just the medium where this can work. In the movie? It makes no sense.

3) I Just Can’t Wait to be King: This is a very fun song. I always felt that this song gave us character development of a young Simba. Unlike Jasmine, Simba is proud of his royal position. In his young mind, he can’t wait to become king so that he can do whatever he wants. Many people have translated this as Simba being selfish and full of himself, but let me remind you that Simba is a kid when he sings this! He’s, what, 10-years-old? He’ll sing and fantasize over his future as he sees it now. What’s wrong with that? Let the kid have his fun and his fantasy. He’ll learn soon enough that things won’t go according to this plan. Simba is harmless! Leave him alone!

4) Be Prepared: So many people are in love with this song! They consider it one of the best Disney villain songs ever. I must say, I can see where they’re coming from. The song does show Scar plotting against Mufasa in the cruelest of ways. He even has a Nazi team of hyenas following him! How awesome is that? And, of course, following in the tradition of villain songs, this song sounds a lot different from the other songs in the film. This song is menacing and threatening. You know something is going down! This is a great song!

5) Hakuna Matata: This song is just a ton of fun. It does slow the movie down for a little while, but I can’t be angry at this song! It has a fun melody and an enjoyable catchphrase that an entire generation still recites today! I love this song! Anytime I hear it, I often walk swaying my head from side to side like Pumbaa and Simba did when they were walking on the log. I challenge you to do the same, it’s a lot of fun!

6) Can You Feel the Love Tonight: I do have mixed feelings about this song. As a stand alone song, it’s great! I can see someone falling in love to this number. It sounds wonderful. I love the message, I love the lyrics, I love the music, and I love the singers. This is a beautiful song! In context of the movie, however, this song has no point in being in the movie. How did a romance work its way into the story the movie set up for us? This was a coming of age story, and then we get a love fest out of nowhere. Not only that, but I don’t believe Simba and Nala are really in love. Look at how Disney conveys romantic love in other films. It’s not conveyed the same as it is in this film. I don’t think they’re in love, but I do think they’re in lust. Did you see that face Nala gave Simba as she’s laying on her back during the song?…Yeah, that says it all. But again, that’s in context of the movie. If you listen to the song on its own, it’s still a really good song.

ROMANCE: …I just talked about this, didn’t I?…Yeah, aside from seeing Simba’s child at the end of the movie, which fits within the Circle of Life theme, the romance contributed nothing to the film…But that face, though.
The Lion King - Nala

CHARACTERS: These are some of my favorite characters in a Disney movie ever! Since there are so many of them, I’ll just mention 5 characters.
1) Simba – I’ve gone on record saying that this is the Disney character I relate to the most. Yes, he starts out naïve and rebellious, but he matures. He learns about responsibility. He matures and becomes strong. He applies the ethics and morals and lessons his father taught him. He may be one of the most ethical Disney leads! I like that he has flaws, yet he learns from his mistakes. If Ariel is too flawed and Belle is too perfect, Simba may be the perfect balance between the two. He’s very relatable, and I admire that. I love watching his story arc to see how he comes to accept his position and responsibility. It’s something that so many of us go through everyday. Again, I see so much of myself in Simba. He’s a great character!
The Lion King - Simba
2) Mufasa – This guy is easily my favorite character in the movie! Why? Because he’s so powerful! He is strong! Even without him opening his mouth, you can look at him and feel the weight of his power and might. And then, once you hear his voice, the weight hits you even more! Mufasa is one of the strongest characters I’ve ever seen! He says my favorite line in the movie when his image appears in the sky. He said, “Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.” OH MY GOSH – that line WREAKS with power! It just BLEEDS power! But not only that, Mufasa also displays himself as a kind and loving father. He disciplines his son, plays with his son, educates his son, and he protects his son. This makes him relatable to the audience because we see our parents in Mufasa, knowing that they would give us the same love and care Mufasa gave to Simba. This is also why his death scene is so emotional for us. If we didn’t get to know and relate to Mufasa, we would not have cried when he died. But he immediately became a true person, the person you didn’t want to go away. When he did, we balled our eyes out. Not to mention…he’s voiced by JAMES EARL FRICKIN’ JONES!!! YEAH!
The Lion King - Mufasa
3) Scar – I won’t say too much here since I already talked about Scar in my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list. I will say briefly that what makes Scar stand out from most Disney villains is he didn’t have any super powers or magic spells to cast on anybody. All he had was his mind. He’s very smart. You heard him say it early in the movie when he said to Mufasa, “As far as brains go, I’ve got the lions’ share…” He knew what to do to get what he wanted. He knew a young and naïve Simba would be curious and rebellious enough to go to the elephant graveyard. He knew Mufasa would save Simba from the stampede. What I don’t understand, though, is why he sent the same hyenas who couldn’t kill Simba and Nala is the elephant graveyard to kill Simba after the stampede. Didn’t he suspect that they’d mess up again? Aside from that, he really proves himself an intelligent villain, and I love hating him.
The Lion King - Scar
4) Rafiki – This is my second favorite character in the movie! Why? Because he’s both wise and funny! He’s a perfect blend of both! I love watching him talk to Simba about learning from his mistakes. He displays so much mystical and spiritual guidance, but not in a goofy and cartoony fashion. His wise personality is very believable – you believe someone like Rafiki really exists. He delivers, in my opinion, some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie; like when he tells Simba, “…You are a baboon, and I am not,” or when he hits Simba and
replies, “It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past!” That is absolutely funny, yet wise! I love it! I love Rafiki!
The Lion King - Rafiki
5) Timon and Pumbaa – Since these two have so much to contribute to both the story and the identity of this movie and franchise, it’d be wrong to leave them out. And, as you may imagine, I enjoy them. They’re not the funniest Disney characters ever, but they do keep me laughing and they do entertain me. I like their humor. I like how their humor doesn’t necessarily come from referencing modern pop culture. That was a huge thing for kids/family movies after Aladdin, and it got annoying. It was fine for that movie, but I don’t need to see it everywhere. These two are funny because of their personalities, characteristics, and the events that take place around them – not because they were watching Friends or Full House on television. I also like how they support our main character. When he’s on the verge of dying, they saved his life. When he needed a home, they took him in. When he needed to return to his home, they were right behind him. They never asked “what’s in it for me?” They never got in the way of anything or caused something bad to happen. They kept me smiling and singing. I like them.
The Lion King - Timon and Pumbaa

STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: I know a lot of people say this movie is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but that’s not entirely true. The filmmakers were developing an original story, and in the middle of the process they saw connections between this film and Hamlet. After they decided Scar should be a member of the royal family, they realized this story paralleled Hamlet. The filmmakers were influenced by Shakespearean tales, however. They were also influenced by Biblical stories like Moses and Joseph. They were drawn to Greek myths as well.
As a whole, I really like this story. I like the pacing, and I like the sequence of events. There’s only one thing in the story I don’t understand. After the stampede, Scar finds Simba and tells him to “run away and never return,” and then, as I said earlier, he sends his hyenas to go kill him. Question: why didn’t Scar kill Simba himself? No one else was around, and he would have gotten away with it. None of the answers to this question I ever hear holds any water. “He didn’t want the blood of Simba on his hands.” Really? Because not only does he have the blood of Mufasa on his hands, not only does he get into an epic fight with Simba at the end, but I don’t think he’s above killing children to get what he wants. “He has lackies. It’s their job to kill him.” Yeah, because they did such a great job before in the elephant graveyard! “Well, it’s a fact that lions can pick up the scent of someone or something off their paws.” How many people know that? Do you really think a large number of people who love this movie knows that? In fact, did the filmmakers know that? I doubt it! The only answer I can come up with is that if Scar had killed him, then there’d be no movie. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s really lame! Anytime that becomes the answer to any plothole in a movie, that means that the movie did not have to happen. That means that this movie, for as epic and wonderful as it is, for as much as I love it, didn’t have to happen. Crap.
As for the themes and messages, there’s the obvious one about accepting responsibility, which I think is conveyed very well. I get a strong sense that this movie is saying something about fathers. In fact, the filmmakers were originally going to dedicate this film to fathers! I wish they had followed through with that, it would have been wonderful! Anyhoo, Mufasa, as I said before is an awesome father! He’s the best Disney father EVER! I love how he really disciplines his son for doing the wrong thing. He scolded him for disobeying him and putting his and someone else’s life in danger. That is a real father! In any other Disney movie, the protagonist would have said, “I’m 16, Dad! I can make my own decisions!” Not here! But Mufasa still loves his son! He will protect him from harm and he will hug him and play with him. This is what we need to see more of! This is the type of parent we need to keep seeing from Disney! It’s such a wonderful message! Fathers – parents as a whole are strong and loving!
I love the theme of the circle of life – caring for everything and the life they live, and celebrate the lives we live as well. Life will make you happy, life will make you sad. Life offers good and bad things alike. Under the right team, this movie could have been less story-driven and more character-driven, just showing the life of this lion. But one of my favorite themes in the movie is maturing and growing into the people we’re supposed to become. Simba is naïve and rebellious as a kid, and is not ready to be King yet, though he thinks he is. He still has so much to learn and do. This is conveyed when Simba finds his small paw print in his father’s large and massive paw print in the ground. I love that image!
There’s debate whether or not this movie promotes segregation. Everyone is in the pride except the hyenas. I always just assumed it’s because in the animal kingdom, hyenas are dangerous and they prey after the animals that live in the pride. I don’t know, maybe there is something there I’m not seeing, but that’s how I see it. Maybe I’d have to think about it more.
The Lion King - Paw Print

CONCLUSION: I love this movie so much! This isn’t just my favorite Disney movie, but it’s one of my favorite movies period! It’s so great! The story, the characters, the songs, the animation, the design, the writing – it’s all so good! Yes I take issue with the romance and Scar’s choice to have the hyenas kill Simba, and I don’t know where in Africa this film takes place, but this film is too great, too fantastic, too epic for me to turn my head away from it! I love it so much! I can’t wait to have kids of my own so I can introduce this movie to them! The Lion King rules!
The Lion King - Characters

MOVIE REVIEWS: Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991)

Beauty and the Beast

After the great success The Little Mermaid had, the Walt Disney Animation Studio was set to make some of the greatest animated hits the world has ever known. Of course their next film was The Rescuers Down Under (Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel, 1990), but I haven’t seen that one yet and thus I can’t review it…A lot of people haven’t seen that film. Shame. But the next picture the studio released went on to be one of the best film adapted fairy tales the world has ever known…EVER! I am, of course, talking about the beloved Beauty and the Beast! Not only did it receive great commercial and critical praise, but it was also the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards! Is the film really that good? Does it hold up that well?…Yes. This is a great movie! Why? Let’s find out.

ANIMATION: The animation in this movie is stellar! It is just beautiful! I love the colors in this movie. Pay special attention to the colors in each location and notice how they create the mood of each scene! Look at how rich they are, how wonderfully they blend together! I also love the design of the characters! The designs only enforce the theme of the movie! I love that Beast looks like an ideal villain and Gaston looks like an ideal hero. The animators and filmmakers wanted to be sure Gaston did not look like the typical Disney villain, and it worked well in their favor! There are two moments in the film I love admiring the animation. The first is the ceiling in Beast’s ballroom. It looks so lovely! It’s something straight out of a painting! The second is Beast’s facial reactions as he’s holding Gaston over the cliff. I love how the animators knew how much attention to give to the look in his eyes, the texture of his face, all of it! It is amazing!
Beauty and the Beast - Animation

SONGS/MUSIC: All of these songs are fantastic! Not one of them is out of place, annoying, distracting, or anything like that! They are great, they are wonderful, and they are brilliant! They add to the tone of the film perfectly! Let’s go through each of them:
1) Belle/(Reprise): This song is wonderful because it gives us some really important exposition. We learn who Belle is and what she’s like. We get an understanding of the culture of the town, or the “little town,” she lives in. We learn how all the women in the town throw themselves at Gaston and how Gaston is full of himself. The reprise also gives us a bit more insight into Belle’s character. She longs for something that is greater than she can comprehend. The song sounds nice and pleasant. It’s whimsical, it’s elegant, and it’s beautiful. It’s a very good song!

2) Gaston/(Reprise): I often hear people refer to this song as the villain song of the movie. I don’t know if I’d agree with that. The villain part doesn’t show up until the reprise when Gaston actually begins plotting. The main part of the song consists of the town singing his praises. Does that count as a villain song? I don’t think so. Either way, this is still a great song! I love the melody! It is so much fun! And, again, it’s good to see how much the town holds Gaston in the highest regards. They cannot stop admiring him or talking about how great he is. Plus, Richard White, the actor who voices Gaston, has a marvelous voice! The more we can hear this guy sing, the better!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuJTqmpBnI0 & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f3hFq2crOo
3) Be Our Guest: Of course, this is the song that everyone goes nuts over! This is the movie’s Number One song! But, in all fairness, this doesn’t really add that much to the movie. We don’t move the story forward, we don’t get character development, we don’t get exposition, a moral, or anything. So why do people love it? Because it is a fantastic song! Really, you don’t always need a song that has everything that’s listed above if the song can still be a knock-out. The song is big! The song is fun! The song is memorable! The song is just as welcoming to the audience as it is to Belle! It’s a moment you don’t want to end – you want it to go on and on! It’s just a ton of fun! This moment doesn’t rely on the story, characters, or animation to be incredible. Instead, the best element about this scene is the song alone, and it does not disappoint at all! That is the sign of a great and remarkable song! Howard Ashman and Alan Menken did a stellar job here!

4) Something There: In all honesty, this is my least favorite song in the movie. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad song or that I hate it – neither of those statements are true! I just don’t like this song as much as the other songs in the film. But that’s alright. This is still a really good song. This is where we begin to see the romance between Belle and the Beast truly blossom. It’s just beautiful to watch. It’s charming, and it’s very nice! I love how the music sounds like it came out of a ballroom. It’s very nice!

5) Human Again: If you’re only familiar with the original theatrical release of this film, you may not know this song. It’s available on recent DVD and Blu-ray releases. I love this song! This sounds like a light-hearted waltz, and it makes you want to dance. This song reminds us that the supporting cast does have motivation to get these two to fall in love. But, really, the music alone captivates me. I just love listening to it! It is very beautiful!

6) Beauty and the Beast: If “Be Our Guest” is the movie’s Number One song, this number comes immediately after. This is one of the most romantic, beautiful, enchanted, elegant, and loveliest songs Disney has ever released. It is the romance song done the absolute best. This song could not have a more perfect singer, more perfect lyrics, or more perfect music to go with it. It is so beautiful, you’re kind of jealous of it. I mean, I wish Mrs. Potts was singing specifically about me, or that I could write a song this beautiful – this perfect! It totally engulfs the entire theme and feeling of the movie! I love it!

7) The Mob Song: OK, I’m sorry to end on such a harsh song, but this is the last song in the film, so what do you do? THIS is the number I consider to be the film’s villain song. Do you see how Gaston is convincing the town that the Beast is evil? He has the town like putty in his hand. And listen to what the town is singing about: they’re going to KILL someone! They are invading someone else’s home and environment to kill him! My word! This may be worst than the “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” song…No, no, it’s not…But it’s up there! The song sounds as threatening as the situation is. It doesn’t sound like any other song in the film, not even the “Gaston” numbers. It’s fun! It will definitely have you chanting “KILL THE BEAST” after it’s over…C’mon, I know I’m not the only who shouts “KILL THE BEAST!”

ROMANCE: I really don’t think I have to go into much detail about the romance in this movie – it speaks for itself. This is the best Disney romance the company has ever done; not just in their animated films, but in any production period! I cannot think of another Disney romance that even comes close to rivaling this one! There’s a reason and a need for them to fall in love – the whole story revolves around it – but they don’t fall in love at first sight. Despite Beast’s outward appearance, Belle eventually does find herself becoming attracted to him. She sees his spirit and his humanity. Beast also admires her strong will and her kind nature. I also love that she doesn’t fall for Gaston despite his outward appearance. Again, all the women in the town throw themselves at him because of how handsome and strong he is, but looks do not impress her. She focuses on the heart and the personality, which is why she falls for the Beast. I LOVE that! That’s a fantastic message, all coming from the romance! It’s incredible!
Beauty and the Beast - Beast's Castle 04

Characters: I will be as brief as I can be here. Just know that I love all of these characters! There’s not a one of them I dislike! Let’s go through them:
1) Belle – This is one of the best leads in a Disney movie ever! I love Belle! I love that she is so determined! She’s adventurous, she’s smart, and, again, she’s strong willed! She’s also kind and caring to everyone around her. She is one of the most beautiful young women Disney has ever designed, but she doesn’t flaunt it. She’s very humble. But even after you take all these compliments into account, she’s not a perfect character. Sometimes her curiosity can get the best of her. That doesn’t make her bad, though, it just makes her more human, which we need if we’re going to relate to her at all. All of these things considered, Belle is easily one of the best Disney characters ever!
Beauty and the Beast - Belle 01
2) Beast – Beast is probably my favorite character in this movie! I love his design, I love his voice, and I love his story arc! I also love some of the funny moments that come out of him. I think my favorite line in this movie is when he shouts “Then go ahead and STARVE!!!” That is funny as I don’t know what! But I think the reason I like Beast so much is because he is a kind person, but he has a difficult time showing it. On the surface, his character is the same as his outward appearance: very beastly. Below the surface, he is patient and compassionate. He just has a hard time showing it because of his appearance. He battles between being a beast and being a kind person. His true self does exist underneath the surface, and it’s with the help of Belle that he reveals who he really is. That makes him complex – I love it!
Beauty and the Beast - Beast
3) Gaston – The only character in the film to be more complex is Gaston! Gaston, in contrast to Beast, appears to be the hero. He looks like he’s the one who will save the day and win Belle’s heart, and he acts like it too. However, his pride is wounded and he becomes a villain. I like how full of himself he can be. I like the humor that comes out of him. He is easily one of the most enjoyable Disney villains ever! For more information, check out my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list.
Beauty and the Beast - Gaston
4) Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts I put these three together because they all pretty much serve the same purpose. They are great supporting characters. They help move the story along wonderfully, and they help our main characters as well. It goes without saying that they are all a lot of fun. Even beyond these three, the other supporting characters are enjoyable and a lot of fun as well: Chip, Lefou, Maurice, the Wardrobe, Babette, and the others – they’re all just a ton of fun to watch! There’s not a character in this film I dislike at all. They’re all very well developed, they’re fun, they serve their purpose, and there isn’t any unethical moral any of them enforce! Way to go guys! You all rock!
Beauty and the Beast - Supporting Characters

STORY: This is one of the best stories you’ll ever find in any Disney animated movie! It knows the perfect amount of details it needs, it has the perfect amount of pacing, and it moves along so fluidly! There are a couple of issues I do take with the story, however. They’re not that big, but I do think they need to be addressed. First, how much time goes past in this story? I’ve heard some people argue over how much time the story takes – days, weeks, months, whatever. This isn’t a problem, seeing as how this is each audience member’s own interpretation. The problem comes when you incorporate the “When We’re Human Again” number. It looks like it’s spring or summer, but the events before and after that scene look as though the story is in the winter. So, then, how long does it take again? The second problem I have with the story is how Belle gets to Beast’s palace. Belle finds the Beast’s castle, where the Beast is imprisoning her father Maurice, because the horse, Philippe, led her there. But how did Philippe know where Maurice was? Philippe ran away before Maurice got to the castle, so he couldn’t have known where he was. These are the only problems I have with the movie, but they’re not huge problems at all. Actually, they’re very minor. The rest of the movie is so unbelievably good, you didn’t even notice these flaws. Not only did you not notice, but you also don’t care.
Beauty and the Beast - Beast's Castle 03

CONCLUSION: This is easily and unarguably one of Disney’s best movies ever! Everything about the film is wonderful! It’s perfect! Even with those very minor flaws, this is still a perfect movie! The animation is perfect! The characters are perfect! The songs are perfect! The romance is perfect! The story is perfect! This beautiful, enchanted movie is just unbelievable! It is as perfect as a movie can get! Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic film!
Beauty and the Beast - Stained Glass

Reviews!

Hee-lo!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to analyze entertainment. There are a lot of current and nostalgic movies and television shows. I love analyzing to find out why they are good or why they are bad. Because of that, I will be publishing some reviews! With that being said, let me say right now that I am by no means a critic! I have some understanding of cinema as an art, but I don’t study it like I study other art forms, like theatre. However, I do have my own opinions about these pictures that I’d love to share. If you disagree with any of my reviews/opinions, that’s fine! That doesn’t mean either of us are stupid, it just mean we don’t share the same opinion. That’s what makes us different and unique. With that being said, be on the lookout for some reviews!
—Bro. B.I.B.
—BOOYIKA!