Fuse #8

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Princess in the Works

The other day, husband and I are flipping channels and we end up on that animated television show based on The Emperor's New Groove. Remember The Emperor's New Groove? No? Know who else doesn't remember? America.

Anyway, we start going through the different races that Disney used in their animated films back in the day. Mayan. Chinese. Native American (in the loosest sense of the term). Hawaiian. Yet with the exception of bit characters, where was the animated Disney film with a black hero or heroine? The Lion King was the closest that scaredy-Disney ever got, and even then you're dealing with Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (pretty good that I could come up with the name, huh?).

Well, that was before I read this headline:

Disney shows first black princess

Disney's next animated fairy tale, The Frog Princess, will feature the studio's first black princess.

Maddy, unveiled at a Disney meeting

How are they pulling this off without an animation studio, I wonder. Maybe they can rebuild one by 2009 (the film's release date).

Finding Wonderland gives an excellent encapsulation of all the fears surrounding this project. I think they could even be summarized thusly: There's voodoo, a singing crocodile, and (here's the kicker) the music is being written by Randy Newman. Randy. Newman. Think about it.



At 8:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, do you have any idea how many movies are scored by Randy Newman?

Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc. James and the Giant Peach and Cars for starters. I think he wrote the theme song for the tv show Monk, too.

What have you got against Randy Newman? hm? Well? You aren't by any chance SHORT are you? (me, too, but I like his sense of evil irony)

At 9:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am with you on the Randy Newman issue. Yeah, he writes a lot of dreck, uh, soundtrack stuff for Disney, but with the plotline described, he doesn't seem the obvious choice for music. Heck, Danny Elfman makes more sense, if you're going with a "usual soundtrack guy." At least he can write something that sounds all bayou-ish. (Damn, now I'm hearing Blue Bayou in my head -- make. it. stop!)

At 9:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to imagine I said the preceding line through a Seinfeldian grimace.
If it's a NOLA setting, couldn't they at least have gotten Harry Connick, Jr.? And there are about twelve Marsellis brothers, one of them might have been game.
I think we all know he's scored a lot of films, but they really need someone who does New Orleans jazz or zydeco. And I hate zydeco.

At 10:50 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I love saying "Newman" ala Seinfeld. Wish I'd thought of it myself. Damn.

As it stands, I know that Newman does Pixar. That's fine. No one in a Pixar film actually sings. What I've assumed with this new "Princess" movie, however, is that it's going to be a musical. Has Newman ever made a whole musical? A zydeco musical? A zydeco musical where he himself is not singing. Short people aside (and remember how looooong ago THAT hit came out) this is not the man for the job. There was a reason he holds the record for most Oscar nominations (fifteen) before his begrudging win.

At 2:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kermit Ruffins is who they need. And yes to Harry Connick, Jr. (listen to his kids' album, Songs I Heard, which is a lot of fun), and various Marsalises, and probably the Nevilles.

And Clifton Chenier and Steve Mamou and . . .

At 3:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever listened to the lyrics to Randy Newman's "Sail Away"? Get thee to iTunes if no. Say what you will but there's a fellow who can, if inclined, write about race in America with the gloves off.

Don't know 'bout that voodoo, though.

At 5:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the one hand I agree that Randy Newman, absent his Pixar connection, is not an obvious choice to score this film, but he is by no means a bad choice. He has family connections to the South, particular to Louisiana, so he is not a complete cultural stranger, and has written a fair number of songs about the South. If memory serves, he once provided music to a film about Huey Long. In addition to “Sail Away” he has torn into Race with a capital R in the song “Rednecks” which skewers both the South’s overt racism and the North’s smug blindness to its own racist past and policy. A number of his songs have transplanted successfully into largely African-American genres (think of the Motown cover of “You Can Leave Your Hat On” (not that I’d want to explain that to a 9-year old) and the gospel style “Good News”). Moreover, with respect to the instrumental cues he is a superb orchestrator and writes good atmospheric music. In the role of a music supervisor (above and beyond that of a composer), he would have the knowledge and clout to harness the diverse talent that a film set in the Louisiana would require for its score.

Let’s not deny the downsides. His sharpest lyrics ARE from long ago, though he is still pretty clever with words. His scores for Pixar have some great, even inspired, moments but run together after a while, and the Disney/Pixar film aesthetic seems to demand an extended song mid-film that completely stops the plot to whack its audience over the head with the prevailing mode of luuuuv or despair. Sometimes this is OK, but usually is so treacle-rich that my teeth just itch at the thought of it. Three minutes and forty-nine seconds of dead space for Randy to sing in this particular film don’t have immediate appeal. Still on balance, I’m willing to wait and see – this could be good or bad.

At 7:38 PM , Blogger ElsKushner said...

Randy Newman wrote "You Can Leave Your Hat On"?!

Well. You learn something new every day.

At 10:21 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Wow! Who knew the Newman had such a support system. You could've knocked me over with a feather.

All right then. We'll wait a good two years here and see how it is. The jury is skeptical, however.


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