When one thinks of Disney, the images that float up unbidden range from person to person. Scenes from a favorite film, a cherished childhood vacation, Mickey, Minnie and.... dancing skeletons?
Yes, the generally bright and cheerful, sometime sentimental, Disney we know so well today has more than a few snippits of ghoulish celluloid in its vaults. Over the next few posts, Halloween Movies for Kids will be exploring and reviewing the best of them. Get your ears on - it's time for a Haunted Disney special!
Ears in place? Mine are.
With all the work this super-company o' fun has released over the years, picking something the entire family will enjoy can be overwhelming - but a great deal of fun. We begin our Haunted Disney fest with something special, digging deep into the vaults to find it and coming back up up with ... the classic Skeleton Dance from 1929; and while it may not be a film in and of itself, it can often be found on Disney Halloween collections and is a perfect example of exactly what Haunted Disney is all about.
This black and white early short showcases the genius of founder Walt Disney in a relatively short running span. He was a man who believed in embracing the unique and the stories that surround us - Dancing Skeletons accomplishes this, along with the combination of dry humor, personification of the inanimate (or usually inanimate anyway), and the drop of social commentary that ties the package up neatly. Setting the trappings aside, the title characters themselves are a commentary. Disney, through means of what I can only assume to be pixie dust, creates in these characters a humor at the absurdity their own existance while portraying very nicely the manner in which we all - for we're all just bones at the core - change our entire behaviour based around the company we are in. (eg, Our friend the skeleton(s) dancing the Charleston one moment and and performing the dark and scary act the next.)
Even when touching upon the spooky and scary - and everything else associated with the Halloween season - Disney, and its fantastic music and animation, will always remain a safe and enjoyable choice for a family popcorn night. No family popcorn night? Create one! (If only to have an excuse to watch favorite Disney animations again, and again, and... )
- Lissa Rhys
Skeletons Dancing - Walt Disney - Unrated - 1929 -
Based on the novel by Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic is a wonderful genre crossing movie for anyone to enjoy this Halloween. Halloween Movies for Kids knows that sometimes watching the same basic plot cartoons can get almost tiresome for the older siblings and adults in the family - this movie should help bring something new to the living room and have everyone passing the popcorn around.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, with supporting roles by Stockard Channing (yes, Rizzo from Grease) and Dianne Wiest, the cast is full of strong females who are not afraid - well maybe a little at first - to tell life exactly what they think about its twists and turns. Moms, I heavily recommend viewing this with a sister, or at least a sister-like person; Dads, you are guaranteed to earn brownie points if you bring this one home. Teens especially will enjoy the just complicated enough plot, though, much as I love the film, I would recommend a prescreen for any potential viewers under the age of ten. There are a few frightening scenes and some definite references to darker arts and sexual innuendos. In all though, if your household is mostly preteens or older this is one to enjoy together.
Warning: Spoiler Potential!
Ready for a bit of synopsis? Nicole Kidman plays Gilly, an incorrigible and almost prodigal-son (prodigal-daughter) figure. She's the type to never slow down, never settle - very unlike her sister Sally, performed beautifully by Sandra Bullock. These are archetypal sisters, a study in binary opposites with one minor exception - magic. Both carry the ability to perform, not parlor tricks, but actual world changing magic. Their abilities intertwine with their everyday life, making situations and social interactions a bit more... challenging. The reactions of those around them to their talents is about what one would expect from a mildly conservative community; a touch of fear, a bit of envy, and a lot of whispering happens and has the expected effect on the sisters as they're growing up. Gilly leaves as soon as she can and Sally suppresses every bit of her gift to be more 'normal'. It is reminiscent of childhood stories about the old lady living alone in the big house typical in a stereotype small town. If Boo Radley had lived down the street, he couldn't generate more gossip. (If you didn't catch the last reference, read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.)
With this potentially volatile environment set, and the sisters grown, the fun begins. Without giving too much away - envision justifiably angry witch plus abusive boyfriend plus book of spells.
In the end though, this film is not about the flash and dazzle. It's about family, about connections, about appreciating who you are and where you came from. It is often watched around Halloween simply because of the content factor but I have found it in my DVD player more then a few times when I just needed a pick me up. The score is beautiful, the main characters well rounded and the plot witty. Well worth the watch - pass the popcorn?
Practical Magic - Starring Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiste - Rated PG-13 - 1998