Disney Heroes Part 1 - The Renaissance

From their earlier Walt beginnings, to the Renaissance Period that started with The Little Mermaid and ended with Tarzan, I think I have quite a good grasp on everything Disney-related. (Not meaning to toot my own horn or anything, I just spent months upon months revisiting old Disney films when I had less of a life than I do now which isn't necessarily something to be particularly proud of.)

During this part of my life I started to look at the films I adored as a child, and the ones I didn't, in a slightly different light. Truth be told, even though I still don't have any kind of social life and my couch has now moulded into the shape of my back, I technically have lived some kind of existence and know more than I did when I was five years old, thankfully.

With that said, I can look at Disney's output in a much more critical way than I did before.

The verdict?

Most of em' are still fucking awesome.

And, so I present the first part of my dedication to some of my favourite Disney heroes, all of which here are from the Renaissance Period (1989 - 1999), with a little sneaky add of a character from a 2002 film because, well, I can't even follow my own rules on this shit now can I?

In release order, with spoilers ahead.

Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Belle gets a hard time of it in the feminist community. Firstly, she begins as a character who is very in her own world, doesn't care about what people think of her, and so on. Next, she is in a - what could be seen as abusive relationship - with some crazy lunatic whose been trapped in a castle for the last decade. Couple of days later, she completely changes him as only one can do in a relationship and hey presto, you've got yourself a new and improved man. Literally.

The real world doesn't work that way, I think we can all agree on that. In defense of Belle, here is how I see it: 

The Prince, or Beast as he is known throughout, always had a heart. Due to reasons aren't completely explained in this version (in the original fairy tale, to put it lightly, he's a massive cunt), a witch puts a curse on the poor bastard that will pretty much kill him unless he can find someone who will love him for who he is; nt from the outside.

Fair play to the guy, you'd be pissed too, especially if you ended up looking like this:

Oh wait, wrong film....
So, incomes Belle with her understanding personality as an outcast of her own community (she's a woman and she reads books, BURN HER AT THE STAKE) and she takes to Beast; sees that he is actually a decent bloke behind that shaggy mane of fur and brings that same good out of him, like people do in real relationships. You better someone else at the same time bettering yourself, too.

Shocking right?
Choice heroic moment: 

Apologies for the fan dub, couldn't find it anywhere else.  

Saving Crazy Old Maurice (ugh) and taking his place as Beast's prisoner.

She did love the geezer but fuck me was he annoying.

Film: Aladdin (1992)

Oh, the lovable rogue that is Aladdin. He's a real charmer, this one. His life up until he met Jasmine had already been a tough road and then it spiraled into complete, wizardry madness where he had to step up to the plate and be a real hero.

Considering that Aladdin had gone through each day with an 'every man for himself' kind of mentality (and how could you not in the place he lived), he was used to swindling his way out of every opportunity; flashing a smile and getting what he wanted - even if it was a little bit of a hassle to do so. 

On his journey, Aladdin learnt that it wasn't that easy and credit to him. Flashes of the kind of guy he was building up to be had been sprinkled in the film and more than once elluded to (a diamond in the rough).

He showed promises of heroism when he gave the homeless siblings his piece of bread he'd stolen and when he tried to stick up for them later on in the town parade, but it took for him to lose pretty much everything for the real fight to come out. 

Bread thief to an Arabian prince in the space of a week isn't that bad. 

Choice heroic moment:

Seriously, what else was it gonna be?

Film: The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King is a strange watch. While I enjoy it as I do most Disney films, it never resonated with me as much as a lot of the Renaissance work did.

Ignoring my own feelings towards the film (that has probably got a lot to do with Elton John's involvement in the music), Mufasa is a legend, and there are some heartbreaking moments in this one, for sure.

Think you all know what I'm talking about.

Choice heroic moment:

Don't worry, I'm not going to put a gun to your head and force you to relive this moment. Even I get a bit teary eyed thinking about it and The Lion King isn't even one of my faves. 

Film: Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas, is not only based on a true story, (which in itself for a studio that were solely driven to fairytale material is shocking), but it has one of the most WTF moments in any Disney film I can recall - the bittersweet ending.

Quasimodo, with his deformities and all, is accepted into the world of the Paris village folk and the sunset looms over the town and all is good come the credits. In Pocahontas, instead of heading off with her new-found love John Smith, Pocahontas chooses her people (her people) over her heart. The girl has a head on her.

(Let's forget that, in real life, Pocahontas actually died on the journey to London with a completely different John guy, and that the sequel happened). In case you were wondering, yes, it is as awful as it sounds and no I don't want to talk about it.

Choice heroic moment:

As much as I wished they'd gone off into the sunset and got married and made cute little babies and lived an all happy life, this was a really fitting and raw as shit. Sometimes the most heroic thing to do is give up want you want the most. Old John had his own life, she had hers.

Pass me the tissues, man, I can feel my tear ducts 'a goin'.

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Unfortunately, I am a massive sucker for characters thrown in the deep end; ones that don't really get what they want in the end despite deserving to.I like my shit emotionally wrought. (Not sure what that says about me, but whatever.) Quasimodo is the epitome of this kind of tragic hero. He doesn't get what he wants (Esmeralda) but loves her enough to let her go to someone that loves her equally, Phoebus. I'm sure there will be many questionable discussions about the fact that the good looking people go off together and leave the one perceived as ugly to the rest of the world without the love of his life, but I don't think that was what Disney's retelling was about at all.

For arguments sake, I'm not going to mention how I've heard that Quasimodo is a bit of a dick in the original Victor Hugo source material. Let's all pretend he is sweet and innocent and leave it at that. (For my own sanity more than anything else.)

Choice heroic moment:

There are so many scenes from Hunchback I could pick of Quasi doing heroic things and generally being awesome, but this is the one that gets me every time. Disney doesn't get more epic than this.

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Damn, I love Esmeralda.

She's feisty, fierce, is all for justice and what is right, and she was the first person to truly care about Quasimodo, looking past what was on his adorable surface (don't question the adorable-stakes of old Quasi), and seeing the good underneath. (Apart from the Gargoyles of course, but I've always imagined they are figments of Quasi's imagination.)

My love for her reaches such heights that I'll even forgive the whole kissing Phoebus soul-crushing scene. Maybe.

Choice heroic moment:

Again, sorry for the fan dub. 

It took a lot of balls of courage to get up in front of all those people, as they're ready to tear Quasimodo to shreds, and say what needed to be said. Fight the power, girl.

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

I swear that I'm not going to list the Gargoyles one by one on here after Phoebus. Merely, this is a rounding up of an excellent trio of characters from an equally excellent film.

From the off, Phoebus isn't like the other soldiers. Finding out about the Parisian army's corrupt ways later on after reluctantly following Frollo's orders, Phoebus turns his back on the army for the greater good. He's not the bad guy, though soldiers are definitely seen as that to the villagers.

Though I shall champion the pairing of Quasimodo and Esmeralda until I die for this particular film, Phoebus is deserving of winning the girl and Quasi's friendship in the end.

Choice heroic moment:

Very few people had ever crossed Frollo, and if they did, well, we all saw what happened to Quasimodo's mother, didn't we? Years later, it's Esmeralda who tells the creepy old man where to stick it. Phoebus followed suit with a totally kick-ass rescuing, causing him to nearly die in the process. I'd say that saving Quasi's ass is another one, too, but, hey, we knew he was going to survive, it's fucking Disney.

Film: Hercules (1997)

Um, because he's Hercules?
Choice heroic moment:

Stick with it for that Linkin Park intro. 

Fucking over Hades with his God powers.

Film: Mulan (1998)

Stemming from a Chinese folk tale, Mulan is the continuation of Disney stepping out of it's all-white comfort zone and adding some diversity into their range with one of the baddest chicks around.

After her whole Reflections routine, she decides to take her injured fathers place at the Chinese army boot camp, disguise herself as a dude, and fucks off to fight for her country. Seriously, how more brave and heroic can you get?

Wait, there is more.

She practically saves China, with the help of some of her solider crew.

Yup, it definitely did get cooler.

Choice heroic moment:

This scene. 'Nuff said. 

Film: Mulan (1998)

Shang easily has one of the best solo Disney songs. Shit just doesn't get better than I'll Make a Man Out of You is a classic, and I'm sure you'll agree with me on that one.

If you don't, watch this and come back to me.

Coming across as someone who is very regimented at first, Shang then goes down a similar Phoebus path and gives the middle finger to authority and follows his heart. May not have been the best choice at the time, but it worked out in the end, right fellas?

Choice heroic moment:

Throwing the old rule book out of the window, when Shang finds out that Mulan has boobies and other lady parts. He does the right thing and saves her life, just as she did for him.

Film: Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Despite being outside of the Renaissance Period, anyone that hasn't seen Lilo & Stitch is truly missing out on something special. Out of all of the Disney films released to date, this is the one that speaks on an honest level about tough family shit and the closest the company have ever got to replicating real life and real situations. They should do it more often. 

Lilo is a little feisty one in her own right, but it's Nani, her sister, that carries the film. A young woman who is trying to be a provider for their small knit family, a mother, and a cool sibling all at the same time. Let me tell you, that shit ain't easy.

Choice heroic moment:

I'm not lying when I say that 95% of what she did was tough on her, but for the love of her sister and keeping the family unit alive, she did it anyway.

Being a hero in a fantasy world is hard enough, let alone in real life.


  1. Fab post! I absolutely love the Hunchback of Notre Dame (I'm pretty sure you know that though, haha) but I think Beauty and the Beast ranks slightly higher for me, probably because Belle is so easy to connect to - a bookworm, a dreamer, still a bit of a romantic :)
    I've heard how Quasi is really different in the original novel as well, but I don't see why people need to relate it to the Disney adaptation, or any of the other Disney films (I mean, Ariel freaking dies in the original fairytale!). The films are their own, separate and with their own messages.

    Ps - I have rented Akira on DVD - looking forward to watching it very soon! :D

    1. Thank you, Ruth!

      You are definitely one of the only people I have come across that loves Hunchback!

      I've read some of the book years ago, but never managed to get past the Festival of Fools which took

      I'd say that Beauty and the Beast is a better film, but, Hunchback is just a little nudge above it in terms of favourites for me.

      I get exactly what you mean about the whole relating thing, you're totally right. I really need to read the fairytale of The Little Mermaid because I've heard it is good, and well, I roll with the whole 'people dying' kind of thing...

      AND YES! Go you on the Akira renting! If you don't like it on the first round, like me, it definitely deserves a second watch.

      SO looking forward to hearing what you have to say about it.

      P.S: Team Shang!

    2. So...umm, yeah, Akira....HOLYFUCKSHITBALLS!!!!! I'm definitely not going to pretend that I understood every detail, or the finer intricacies on a first viewing, but WOW! That opening just grabbed me, and I could barely look away from the screen!

    3. So glad you took to the film, man. I'd have been very surprised if you didn't like it, so it makes me happy that you did!

      It took me a while to 'get' what I thought of it, at least a couple more viewings, but the craziness of the film is nothing compared to the comic which is actually insane....

      And yeah, the opening is fucking awesome. Favourite 20 minutes of any film, ever, for me.


  3. Brilliant post! Can't wait for next parts. Disney always had such amazing characters, simply unforgettable. I still love watching this movies much more than all the computer animated movies that come out recently, that put more effort on silly humour than actual character development.

    1. Thanks Sati!

      I totally agree with you, they are definitely amazing and unforgettable characters. It's so surprising how many excellent films they have made, so it kind of cancels out the whole shitty-output they have now in my eyes.

      Again, I agree with you on the silly humour instead of character development. I haven't seen Tangled yet (which I heard is good), so I can't comment on that, but I got those vibes with The Princess and the Frog, which I did like to some extent, but nowhere near as much as their older stuff.

  4. Great post! I haven't seen Hunchback in a long ass time, but you've tempted me to change that. Beauty and the Beast has got to be my favorite, and yet for some reason until you said it the blatantly obvious "love your abuser!" message did not come across to me. Well. That IS a little disturbing when you put it like that. Still, she's one of the few women who takes charge of her destiny, and that should mean something...right? Maybe? Alright, maybe not, but it's still a good movie about gay inanimate objects.

    Speaking of gay, for the record? I always thought Shang was a little disappointed that Mulan turned out to be a woman.

    1. Thanks M!

      You totally need to watch Hunchback again, man. It has some of the best relevant Disney songs, plus, Frollo is the most terrifying villain out of the lot of them...

      I never saw Belle in that way until someone mentioned it to me, and I was like 'Well, I can see that, but there are definitely parts to that which I can disagree with', hence why I still love Belle.

      Yes! I think he totally was disappointed by that. There is this face he makes when Mulan punches him in the I'll Make a Man Out of You segment, and you can completely read his reaction as "OMG, HE'S SO HAWT."

      Makes me laugh every time.




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