Tag: disney (Page 1 of 7)

3 Very Different Empowering Movies for Girls

Last week I saw three empowering movies for girls that were very different from each other, but had valuable messages.

I’m a member of Generation X, raised by Baby Boomer parents. My mother was part of the first generation of women who were encouraged to work full-time and have a family. I’m not naturally inclined to domesticity, so I grew up dreaming about goals and achievements instead of decorating and cooking.

However, I still struggle with my identity. Am I a stay at home mom? Or a career woman? Is there something in between that won’t tear me into pieces? Not so far. But, every day, I strive to find that balance.

Meanwhile, I have a son and daughter who are watching every move I make. I don’t want my son growing up to think that his wife (if he chooses one) will bear the burden of all the housework and child-raising. I also don’t want my daughter to think all that is entirely her responsibility (if she gets married or has children). I want her to have confidence, opportunity, drive, ambition and a dozen other things that will see her become the amazing woman I know she’ll be. She’s crazy smart, so I dream about her being a scientist, an engineer, a physician or some other brainy career.


I also want her to love herself. The struggle for a girl to maintain a healthy body image and self-esteem in today’s world of multimedia is well-documented, in written studies and films. I try desperately hard to walk the line between encouraging her to take care of her appearance, while not prioritizing it above, say, competing in Math 24. I know I’ve failed many times and said the wrong thing. The older she gets, the better I get at not saying anything about her appearance. Kicking old habits, and life-long misconceptions, is very difficult.

Lucky for me, the world is slowly — so slowly — waking up to the same reality. My generation is the tiniest bit more removed from the false idea of the 1950s housewife than my mom’s. I’m hoping my daughter’s generation will be even further removed, but it’s so hard to fight the influence of the media that surrounds us. For instance, in my house, we don’t have fashion magazines. I don’t weigh myself all the time or talk about all the improvements I want to make to my face and body. I don’t comment on other women’s looks or even compare myself to other women. Yet, when my daughter was 6 years-old, she made a comment that took my breath away. We were looking at an Athleta catalog (don’t ask me why, I stupidly assumed I’d find something that was structurally sound enough to wear) when she asked me if she was skinny. I said no, thinking she was beautifully rounded and strong. She looked devastated. I quickly said what I was thinking and assured her that she was perfect just the way she was. When I asked why she wanted to be skinny, she said, “Because skinny is better.” It was my turn to be devastated. I had tried so hard to protect her from that kind of thinking, but it snuck in anyway.


That’s where Embrace comes in. Embrace is a documentary that was born from Taryn Brumfitt’s Instagram post that went viral. She posted a “before” picture of herself in a body-building contest and an “after” picture of herself, naked, in all her post-three-babies glory. She flipped the stereotypical concept of “before and after” and women everywhere responded. She realized she had touched on something important and decided to do something about it.

Embrace Movie

She teamed up with a documentary team, traveling the world to talk to magazine editors, fashion models, burn victims and all kinds of other women, about their feelings about their bodies, and the pressure to be stick-thin, no matter the cost.

Embrace is reaffirming, eye-opening, funny, sad and wonderful. I encourage every woman, especially if you have a daughter, not only to see this film, but take every girl and woman you know with you. A friend and I took our daughters, and I was so happy I did. My daughter is uncomfortable talking to me about gnarly things, but we discussed a couple of the most astounding scenes in the movie. My hope is that the message sunk into her head (because — you may not know this — children frequently tune out their mothers, can you imagine?).

Some might be shocked that I took my 10 year-old, because there are lots of images of naked women, even their most private parts. But I rejoiced! Of course she should see what real women look like! Seriously, it’s a tool that every mother of a daughter should use, nudie shots and all.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Only two days after seeing Embrace, I took our Girl Scout troop to see Hidden Figures, which was paid for by our local Junior League. The movie didn’t start until 7 p.m., so I figured not many of my girls would come. Happily, almost all of them came!

I’m so glad to have shared that experience with them. I guarantee that most of them, if not all, had no idea what African-Americans endured only 50 years ago, let alone African-American women. I loved that they learned about three women who used their brains to get ahead. I loved even more that they watched how those women had to fight to use their brains to get ahead.

The racism and sexism they encountered didn’t exist in big gestures or thematic ideas, which is how I think the girls see those -isms, because they’re so removed from all of that. (We also live in an affluent, fairly insulated area.) They witnessed racism in small ways, like not being allowed to use the same restroom or drink the same coffee. They saw the surprise on men’s faces when these women solved impossible equations and learned programming that the men didn’t understand.

Hidden Figures was also eye-opening and reaffirming, for the girls as well as myself.


Tenacious teenager Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) recruits a demigod named Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to help her become a master wayfinder and sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The last movie my daughter and I saw — during possibly the biggest movie week of her life — was Moana. She had been wanting to see it and actually said so! (She rarely tells me what she really wants, unless it’s in direct contrast to something I’m telling her to do.) I love Disney movies, as a rule, so I was game to go.

I did not expect to love Moana as much as I did. I was so moved, and so impressed with the message. There wasn’t a prince in sight (thank God!) and not a single character commented on Moana’s looks. In fact, Maui makes a joke about her being a princess, and Moana declares, very firmly, that she is not a princess.

And the characters were complicated. Maui, Moana’s counterpart, was kind of a jerk. She schools him, big time. There were no easy answers and I truly didn’t know how the story would go.

Plus, Moana was set in the islands, so it presented a completely different culture than Disney films usually do. Moana looked nothing like Ariel or Belle or even Elsa, and I loved it. I loved the whole thing. The girl saves the world! (I don’t think I’m giving anything away there. I mean, it is a Disney movie.)

So, there are three empowering movies for girls I discovered almost by accident. In searching out movies that would have powerful messages for myself, I found movies that had powerful messages for my daughter, as well.

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Dory the Blue Tang

‘Finding Dory’ Trivia

You think you know Dory? Just because she starred in Finding Nemo, and now stars in Finding Dory, doesn’t mean you know everything about her and her friends. Sure, you know she’s a blue tang (Paracanthurus) with memory problems. But there’s an ocean’s worth of trivia about Finding Dory you don’t know.

The Basics

When we catch up with Dory in Finding Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), she’s living happily in the reef with Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) and Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence). When Dory suddenly remembers that she has a family out there who may be looking for her, they take off on an adventure across the ocean to California’s prestigious Marine Life Institute, a rehabilitation center and aquarium. In an effort to find her mom (voice of Diane Keaton) and dad (voice of Eugene Levy), Dory enlists the help of three of the MLI’s residents: Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), a cantankerous octopus who frequently gives employees the slip; Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who is convinced his biological sonar skills are on the fritz; and Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark.

Top 5 Disney Sing-along Movies - Click here!

Finding Dory opens in theaters June 17, 2016.

Character Trivia

Even though Dory was already designed for Finding Nemo, filmmakers had to bring her design into current technology to use it. To achieve the specific shapes and expressions that fans would recognize as Dory, artists put images from the first movie side by side with images in production to ensure all was as it should be.

Alexander Gould, who originally voiced Nemo in 2003’s Finding Nemo will be 22 in May, so filmmakers had to recast the character, calling on 12-year-old Hayden Rolence to voice the junior clownfish in Finding Dory.

Gould, who wowed filmmakers 13 years ago, can be heard in the new movie as the voice of a truck driver.

Rolence, who was cast long before recording began, was advised that he couldn’t tell anyone about the role. That proved tough for the youngster, who wanted more than anything to share the news with his grandma.

Comedian Albert Brooks returns to the big screen as the voice of clownfish Marlin in Finding Dory. Filmmakers say Brooks is all about improv, infusing his iconic comedy into the character. While Marlin carried a big emotional load in Finding Nemo, he’s been freed up in Finding Dory, allowing Brooks a lot more improvisational leeway this time.

When designers were working on Hank, the octopus in Finding Dory, they created tapered tentacles for the cephalopod. The tentacles were modeled separately from the body, but when they tried to attach them, only seven would fit. Filmmakers later decided that it made sense that Hank would have an affliction, so they worked it into the script.

Designers gave Hank 50 suckers per arm for a total of 350 suckers.

Hank from 'Finding Dory'

Hank from ‘Finding Dory’

When filmmakers cast the voices of the lounging sea lions Fluke and Rudder, they decided to bring two actors from The Wire together again, tapping Idris Elba and Dominic West.

Destiny is a whale shark who is being cared for at the Marine Life Institute, but filmmakers weren’t initially sure what ailed her. It was Bailey, Destiny’s beluga whale neighbor, who opened their eyes—so to speak. Belugas are known for their echolocation skills—a biological sonar of sorts—that is described at the MLI as “The World’s Most Powerful Pair of Eye Glasses.” Filmmakers decided that if Bailey had an enhanced sense of sight, perhaps Destiny’s was compromised. A nearsighted whale shark was born.

Destiny actually taught Dory to speak whale. Of course, the fact that Destiny is a whale shark—not a whale—explains Dory’s limited understanding of the language.

Becky, an offbeat, kooky loon who takes a liking to Marlin, is named after production manger Becky Neiman-Cobb, who insists there’s no resemblance.

By the Numbers

289,240,840 key animation frames were created for the film. A key animation frame defines pivotal points of motion in a sequence.

25,118,559 likes on Facebook for Dory (the most of any Disney or Pixar character).

103,639 total storyboards were delivered to editorial (49,651 were delivered for Toy Story 3).

26,705 individual pieces of coral were placed in six sets by the sets dressing team.

16,091 fish are swimming in the Open Ocean exhibit at the Marine Life Institute.

11,041 rigging prims were created just for Hank’s simulation (the average character requires around 20).

5,000 stingrays take part in the stingray migration.

1,108 fish are in quarantine at the Marine Life Institute.

746 visitors are hanging out at the Marine Life Institute.

350 suckers are found on Hank: 50 suckers on each of his seven arms.

319 tendrils were added to each sea anemone in the ocean.

118 weeks were required of the team of technical directors who were responsible for building and articulating Hank.

83 employees of the Marine Life Institute appear in the film.

51 minutes of the film include crowds characters (which is more than double that of an average Pixar film).

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Finding Dory Trivia

Chris PIne is Bernie Webber in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, a heroic action-thriller based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

‘The Finest Hours’ Review

The Finest Hours may not be the drama of the year, but it’s a solid movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

(Let’s get this out of the way. Disclaimer: A copy of this DVD was provided in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are solely my own.)

The Perfect Storm is set in 1952, when a massive winter storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, ripping a T-2 oil tanker in half and trapping more than 30 sailors inside its rapidly sinking stern. When word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard, four men led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) set out in a 12-seat boat on a daring mission to rescue the stranded men, braving freezing cold, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds. The men on what’s left of the tanker are led by Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) who becomes captain after the first one goes down with the other half of the tanker.

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and fellow crew members struggle to keep their ship, the SS Pendleton, from sinking in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thriller based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the Coast Guard.

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) in ‘The Finest Hours’

The Finest Hours is a solid movie that floundered at the box office, due to unfortunate scheduling. The Finest Hours premiered the same weekend as Kung Fu Panda 3, but the movies that killed it were The Revenant, an Oscar darling that was still attracting audiences, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which steam-rolled pretty much everything at the box office. Furthermore, audiences hadn’t forgotten the poor outing in December for In the Heart of the Sea, another drama set on the waves. If The Finest Hours had premiered on a different weekend, perhaps in February on the same weekend Gods of Egypt, which was a complete failure, it would have garnered the attention it deserved.

The Finest Hours has a lot going for it, mainly Chris Pine and Casey Affleck. Both actors are talented and bring more to their characters than the script provides. They find a lot to do in scenes that have either wave-filled action sequences, or predictable “aw, shucks” dialogue. Their supporting actors are also top-notch, like Eric Bana as the ranking officer, Daniel Cluff. Even actress Holliday Grainger, as Miriam Webber, the love interest, brings the right amount of feistiness and worry to her role.

The slow pace, the slang and the period style of The Finest Hours is a kind of balm against the quick-cuts and break-neck pace of most action movies. The pace is indicative of how we perceive the time period, and also allows younger viewers — who are, no doubt, part of the target audience — to keep up.

While the drama isn’t as nail-biting as, say, The Perfect Storm, it’s harrowing enough to make you appreciate how brave these men were. The Finest Hours doesn’t feel as high-stakes, partly because it’s been pressed through the Disney filter (no swearing!), and partly because we know the ending. The story is just as amazing, though, watching both crews find creative ways to keep their boats pushing through the storm.

Holliday Grainger is Miriam and Beau Knapp is Mel Gouthro in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, a heroic action-thriller based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

Holliday Grainger (Miriam Webber) in ‘The Finest Hours

When I watch movies, like The Finest Hours, that have a very clear-cut story to tell — man vs. nature, in this case — I always wonder why there needs to be a love interest. Having a sweetheart back on shore doesn’t necessarily push Webber to get back alive. I mean, they all just want to live. And watching her worry about Webber doesn’t make us worry about him any more than we already are. It’s a life and death situation, for cryin’ out loud. The only purpose, then, for having Miriam in the movie at all is to give us a little character background on Webber, before he heads out to sea. But really, I would have rather seen him in training, or working with crews, to get that background.

The extras on The Finest Hours DVD are almost more interesting than the movie. Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story is the documentary about the 1952 rescue. While there aren’t a lot of CGI waves, the documentary has some details that give you a better idea of the odds the crew were up against. What is Your Finest Hour? and The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard introduce us to real Coast Guard heroes.

The Finest Hours serves a purpose, and serves it well: Serve up a drama about a real-life rescue that the whole family can enjoy. Really, that’s kinda what Disney is all about.

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