The “new movie classics” include animated faves

It always cracks me up, a little, when someone decides to call something modern a “classic.” I mean, I guess everything—even the classics—were new at some point, but aren’t classics supposed to be old? Are we even allowed to come up with new classics, at this point?

Whatever. I guess it’s possible to have new (old) classics. I may just need another cup of coffee to properly process it.

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly just did a piece on the “100 New Movie Classics,” and they started it off with The Top 25. These are the films which they feel are stand-outs that will withstand the test of time.

What I find notable on this list is that of twenty-five films, three of their picks are animated. Shrek comes in at 25, The Lion King at 20, and Toy Story was number 5. In the grand scheme of what makes a movie a classic, I think three out of twenty-five is pretty impressive. It certainly proves the point that animated films are managing to be true “family films” that the whole family will enjoy, rather than the so-called family films that parents silently suffer through for Junior’s sake.

Then again, I’m not entirely sure I trust this listing, given that they rank both The Matrix and Blue Velvet—two movies I have watched several times and still fear I’m too unhip to truly “get.”

I guess I’ll stick to Toy Story; I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on that one.

Space Shuttle Discovery taking Buzz Lightyear along

Maybe you were following along this past weekend when the space shuttle Discovery took off on its 14-day flight. What you may not have known is that a very familiar character was on board with the astronauts.

That’s right. Buzz Lightyear is on the space shuttle.

I heard he had a rigorous training program beforehand, too. Oh, look! Here’s some footage:

(Raise your hand if you think Buzz Aldrin is an incredibly good sport.)

NASA explains:

As seven, well-trained astronauts begin an important mission to the International Space Station on Saturday, May 31, one toy astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, will begin a journey to help educate children across the country.

The liftoff of space shuttle Discovery kicks off a new education initiative between NASA and Disney Parks. A 12-inch-tall Buzz Lightyear action figure will be carried aboard the shuttle as part of the partnership to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology and mathematics, one of NASA’s main educational goals.

Disney’s Youth Educational Series and NASA have developed an online program known as the Space Ranger Education Series. It includes fun educational games for students, as well as materials for educators to download and integrate into their classroom curriculum.

“NASA is excited to help students understand the science and engineering currently underway on the International Space Station,” said Joyce Winterton, NASA assistant administrator for Education. “The educational games and resources from this partnership will allow students to explore the science and math behind space exploration with a beloved character.”

Your kids can play along with Buzz while he’s in outer space. (Heck, just about everything adults might want to know is available, too.) I’d say you’d have to be a fool not to agree this is possibly NASA’s most awesome mission ever.

(Pssst! Should this spark a new obsession with everyone’s favorite space ranger, Ty’s has you covered. Just sayin’.)

Kid movies no longer for kids?

Personally, I’ve thought it quite nice that “modern” kids’ television and films have had enough adult-worthy content to keep us doting parents from falling asleep while the kids enjoy them. This is hardly a new concept; even back in the early days of Sesame Street there were little jokes and asides and gags inserted specifically for the amusement of the double-digit set.

But last week The Guardian’s Michael Hann officially took issue with children’s films, insisting that they’re missing the mark entirely:

Now, however, too many kids’ film-makers spend too much time worrying about their adult audience, and make movies that pass the kids by. We remember the successes – the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Shrek and The Incredibles – and forget the many failures, such as 2004′s Shark Tale, which required a working knowledge of mafia movies to negotiate the sub-plots, something surely beyond pre-teen punters.

He goes on to point out movies which “require” (his word) knowledge of purely adult matters to comprehend in their entirety, then takes issue with the most basic of metrics—the run-time:

Even last year’s big animated crit-hit, Ratatouille, failed at the most basic level (not that those handing out the plaudits noticed): it was nearly two hours long, a good 20 minutes more than most of its target audience can comfortably sit through. (For comparison, Finding Nemo clocked in at 100 minutes; Toy Story at a merciful 81 minutes, offering viewers no chance to get bored.)

I’m not sure I agree, here. I mean, what age of kids are we talking about? My kids can sit through a 2-hour movie, no problem. And they’ve been able to from a very young age, I think. As for me, I do recall a couple of lousy kids’ films which shall remain nameless (ahem) during which I wished I’d lied to the kids and told them the theater was closed or the movie was sold out. Now, if I get bored, I just sit there and feel bored; if a child gets bored, maybe he acts up or cries. I guess that’s more problematic from the theater-goers point of view.

But honestly? I don’t know a kid—of any age—or a parent who didn’t love Ratatouille. Isn’t that the point, for the whole family to love it…? I’ve yet to meet the kid who says, “Oh, yeah, I liked it but it was too long!” I guess I’m saying I find Hann’s criticism a little broad.

Empire reveals top 20 Pixar characters

this particular one has the added benefit of offering some trivia tidbits about some of the characters along the way.

What did this supposed reader poll reveal? Well, Buzz Lightyear came in as number 1, which seems only fitting for the spaceman determined to reach infinity or beyond. Given my own son’s infatuation with him for years, I can’t argue. (I remember the year of the Buzz Lightyear birthday party like it was yesterday. We played pin the alien in the spaceship.) Buzz is the one to beat, surely.

In second place is Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. I’m okay with that, but this is where I start to get a little confused, because Sulley only made number 7 on the list, and poor Boo is only number 12. (But I have viewed Monsters, Inc. more times than I care to admit, and I did not know the provided trivia tidbit, which is that Boo’s real name is Mary, after the toddler who voiced her.)

Despite the wild popularity of Cars, Mater doesn’t hit the list until number 17, with little Guido just squeaking in at number 20. Toy Story is clearly the big winner, with 6 of its characters making the top 20.

Check out the line-up, then check out the irate comments posted to the article. Plenty of folks have a favorite who was left off the list (oh, the horror), or disagree vehemently with someone who did make the list. I’m not sure anyone reminded these folks that we’re talking about made-up characters, but it does make for some entertaining reading.

Disney’s muscle soon to be free of trans fats

I love this story. I love it so much, I may have actually squealed a little while I was reading it. If Walt Disney were alive today I would hunt him down and kiss him on the lips (and quite possibly slip him some tongue)*, that‘s how much I love this story.

I read it in The New York Times yesterday (registration required to view article) and in addition to cheering, I am also saying, “Finally!”

Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen will not be endorsing junk food much longer.

Walt Disney, addressing the growing concerns of parents over child nutrition, said yesterday that it would curtail the use of its name and characters with food items that did not meet new nutritional standards. The new guidelines would limit how much sugar, calories and fat could be in snacks and foods marketed by companies that Disney has licensing relationships with.

Setting aside my incredulity at seeing a dangling preposition in the NYT, this was welcome news. As a mom, I have to say that I pretty much despise the concept of a meal that comes with a toy for about a billion reasons. But it does exactly what everyone involved hopes it will do—drive consumer dollars to an establishment because Junior wants the latest and greatest offered baubles (nevermind what the food is).

What a lovely change of pace to see a corporate giant using their muscle to encourage socially responsible change in other businesses. And the icing on the cake? No “do as I say but not as I do” for the brand, either:

In addition to the licensing restrictions, Disney said its own theme park restaurants would change the default options for side orders from French fries to a more healthy choice, like carrots or applesauce.

[...]

All trans fats are to be eliminated from food at restaurants located in Disneyââ¬â¢s theme parks by 2007 and from licensed food items by 2008.

The NYT article takes issue with the absence of plans to restrict advertising of unhealthy foods on Disney-owned television channels, but I find myself feeling uncharacteristically charitable on this oversight. The announced measures are a huge step in the right direction. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to see them take it that extra mile, of course. Just that I’m willing to give credit where credit is due, and it’s due here. This is a brilliant move on Disney’s part. Bravo, Disney!

*Let’s pretend I didn’t say that, about kissing Walt. It feels a little sacrilegious, even compared to the relative evilness of Happy Meals.