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Sunday, July 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Busted: Artists Display Fantasies

Melissa Dribben Knight-Ridder

First, there was the Little Mermaid and her buoyant pair, nestled in a strapless seashell bikini top. She looked a little, um, mature, for a 16-year-old. But once you got a load of Ursula the Sea Witch and her inflated bladder bosom, Ariel’s endowment seemed modest.

We choked on a little seawater when she sang, “Wish I could be part of your world,” and thrust her scallops skyward. But it was such a good movie. We could live with her cleavage.

Then came Belle.

She was the bookish young woman in the 1991 release “Beauty and the Beast.” As long as she wore her apron, you could focus on her intelligence, wit, selflessness, bravery, daughterly devotion and nice eyes. But once the Disney boys let their imaginations loose on her off-the-shoulder ball gown, Belle’s beauties were revealed.

All 36C of them.

We were beginning to see a pattern. This was children’s entertainment. Uncle Walt’s artists were working through the alphabet.

A year later, “Aladdin” starred the harem-panted Jasmine - a full-blown D (if she were wearing a bra, which she is not).

“That magic carpet wasn’t the only thing that defied gravity,” observed a friend of mine when we reviewed the suspended animation.

Again, Disney Studios had managed to produce a wonderful film. Great lyrics. Lush colors. Clever dialogue. And Robin Williams’ impersonation of William F. Buckley counting off the provisos on wishes.

A few centuries later, when Pocahontas made her debut, we knew it - or rather, they - would be big.

In real life, the fabled Indian princess was a child when English explorers descended on her tribal lands. In the film, she’s a fully adult babe in a one-strap deerskin dress.

Those of us who are blessed with mere corn kernels were in awe. We can only imagine how it must feel to carry such twin papooses around. But when the directors had that poor girl run around without benefit of structural support, it brought us to the brink of tears.

There is a limit to the realism you should expect from a cartoon.

In Pocahontas, the raccoon does not carry rabies. Englishmen and hummingbirds survive long periods underwater with no ill effect. And all Pocahontas had to do in order to become fluent in English was listen to the wind. This much, we could chalk up to fantasy.

But when the chief’s daughter goes charging through the woods in a flat-out sprint and nothing bounces except her hair, our imaginations failed us.

Without studying the credits, you can be sure women did not draw these characters. Men have always dominated the animated-film scene. And they have always made their living making the most of their imaginations. They have been brilliant, in these new Disney productions, coming up with movies that appeal on multiple levels.

Those of us who hated Dumbo are grateful. But with each new Disney Dame, the animators are moving further into the realm of male fantasy. What is this? Their mothers did not breastfeed?

We do not want to complain too loudly. In the end, most of the female leads turn out to be pretty good feminists. Pocahontas, for example, chooses to lead her people rather than run off with her hunk.

So we decided, when “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” opened last month, to hope for the best. Maybe the major humps would be reserved for Quasimodo.

“Mais non.”

Esmeralda, the main female character, is a Gypsy. She is French. She is the lust object of every male character in the movie. And. AND. Her voice belongs to Demi Moore.

Forget the way they mutilated Victor Hugo’s novel. Forget that a generation of little girls is going to grow up with an inferiority complex. And the boys are going to grow up … never mind.

Disney has driven a stake through the heart of every woman who ever considered buying a Miracle Bra.

Let this be a warning. Keep it up, and the theaters will be filled only with fathers.

We are fed up to here. Well, there.


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