Response Paper #1

Posted On October 21, 2009

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As a child, when I viewed a Disney film I saw it purely as the retelling of the story. However, after viewing Bambi for the first time in years, I have discovered the immense amount of meaning in the classic story. Walt Disney himself seemed to have eliminated any larger controversy in the basic story, and infused the aesthetics and dialogue with massive amounts of symbolism and significance. Disney was able to blend the pure childhood fairytale with a shocking amount of realism and social commentary that only an older viewer would be able to interpret.
One of the scenes that I have always been drawn to was the death of Bambi’s mother. As a child, I found it shocking, disturbing, and, in fact, made me dislike the movie. Upon reviewing the movie, however, I was able to understand the reasoning behind Disney’s decision to kill the mother deer. In the wild, after the baby has grown up, the mother will eventually abandon it. In the human world, a child could view the act of choosing to abandon the child much more harshly than a departure by a third party’s hand. By having a hunter kill the mother deer, Disney was able to navigate through the difficult issues of abandonment while still allowing Bambi to grow up and move on with his life. It would also bring less viewer dissatisfaction precisely because it was an accident as opposed to the harsher reality of a child moving on with its life. Also, by having the mother killed while she was trying to escape with Bambi allows for the audience to appreciate her maternal instincts and sacrifices, instead of being confronted with the primality of reality. This scene does not necessarily parallel human life, but that is exactly why Disney chose to kill the first Disney cartoon character that way. He wanted audiences to appreciate and empathize with the incredible sorrow of the situation, however, he did not seem to want human societal issues, such as abandonment, to taint the message he was trying to convey and the story he was trying to tell.
Another specific scene I viewed in an entirely different way than when I was much younger was the love scene. I had always loved this scene because I would always relate myself more to the girls in a story, however, I only now realize the highly sexualized and gender-specific setting in which it took place. Throughout this story, gender is discussed fairly often. The first time I watched the movie as a child, I was convinced that Bambi, Thumper, and Flower were all girls. It was only after reaching the love scene that I was able to comprehend that they were men, and this is because only after this scene takes place does the gender-specific attributes take hold. Thumper, Bambi, and Flower all are fairly neutral, gender-wise, in their youths and do not attempt the types of things that young boys usually attempt. Throughout the entire movie as I child, I was always convinced that Flower was a girl. I was certain that a boy could never have been named “Flower”. It is fascinating that Disney blurred these gender lines in a society where sexual equality was rare. Men and women each had their specific roles in society at the time, and yet Disney does not demonstrate those until after Bambi has lost his mother, lived with his father, and physically matured.

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Passage Analysis

Posted On October 21, 2009

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I chose the passage in Chapter 8 of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, on pages 60-61:
“It must be very peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever and ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and caressing the grass and the flowers of the grave, and nothing to bother and grieve about ever anymore… Ah, if only he could die temporarily!”
I found this passage interesting because it seemed to view dying as a way to escape into nature. Death for many is something to fear. It is the antithesis of living, and so some may view dying as the antithesis of the living, breathing natural world. However, Tom views it as a way to escape from the confinements of human society and civilization. The natural world is, in his mind, where he belongs. The boundaries of human civilization hold him in, when he wishes to be freed. Perhaps in this way he views death as freedom, because it is freedom from the society that he so dislikes. Tom does wind up dying temporarily by escaping into the wilderness, thus fulfilling the dream described above. However, when he does “die”, he realizes how much he adores the safety and protection that a civilized life provides, most notable in his pining for Aunt Polly, or what is, in Tom’s mind, the symbol of civilization.

Sublime vs. Pastoral

Posted On October 21, 2009

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I do not believe that nature in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is sumblime. Because it is viewed through Tom’s childish eyes, and not those of a nature-fearing adult, we only ever see nature as how it pertains to Tom, and Tom sees it as a playground. He does not fear it, nor does he think that it contains some sort of awesome power; he rather views it as something to use for play and adventure. He does not fear it because in his naïve mind, he belongs there. In this sense, we only ever see pastoral nature because it is viewed in a child’s biased. This child, in particular, does not fear the playground in which he plays, and thus underestimates the danger that could be presented.

Passage Response #2

Posted On October 1, 2009

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The idea of escaping into nature is neither foreign nor modern to humans. The natural pull to live in the wilderness like our great Homo sapien ancestors, attempting to conquer the very thing they have sought out.  There is a distinct romantic notion associated with the great outdoors, something that is reproduced in Disney cartoons and Frost poems alike. However, when a real name replaces the character of literature the result is resoundingly different than the idealized daydreams of the indoor literary types.  Thayer Walker decided to test his abilities to conquer the wild in his story “Me. By myself. For a long time.” There are distinct parallels and differences between Walker’s experience on a deserted island and Tom Sawyer’s experience on a deserted island in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

            It is one feat to drop a literary character into the wilderness for the amusement of the people reading the book. The character will eventually either find a way out of the wilderness, adapt and become part of the wild, or struggle against it and die. This of course is all done through 250 pages of a novel that is read while one is sitting in a nice comfy couch. The greater feat is the attempt by the author to physically instate himself into the chaotic wild. Walker and Tom both willingly inserted themselves into the wild: Tom with the idea to run away from the problems that plagued his twelve year old existence, and Thayer with the assignment fresh

off the desk of his editor.  Tom had lived his entire life in the woods surrounding the river in which the island lay, and he knew his way around his land. Thayer on the other hand had what can only be described as an abridged version of Boy Scout training. Tom had an overwhelming amount of food, while Thayer was stuck with eating slime nuggets for nearly three weeks.

            Ironically enough, Thayer lasted nearly two weeks longer in the unadulterated wild than Tom did in his idealized nature. Of course, it should be said that Tom is a great deal younger than Thayer was when each completed their adventure. Unlike Thayer, Tom had the ability to return home when he was lonely or needed protection. Thayer, on the other hand, had only an emergency phone to call a boat to come get him. This dependence on others to save him from the wild is interesting because he can easily insert himself in the wild, yet needs others to get him out of it.

            At the end of both of their adventures, Tom and Thayer had a much larger appreciation for the world in which they lived in. This seems to hint that although humans have advanced hugely in the thousands of years since early human species, a single person has difficulty conquering nature, and the human species as a whole are still unable to truly live in harmony with it.

Natural Influences

Posted On September 8, 2009

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I believe that though both an individual personality and the physical environment can color an author’s view of nature, the individual personality can allow people to perceive the same environments differently and thus makes it more of a deciding factor when one describes the environment. A person in a certain situation, for instance the 1620 account of Cape Cod, can also greatly alter the way they view the nature surrounding them. In 1620, Cape Cod was probably a very desolate place, particularly in the winter, when the pilgrims landed. It was barren and the idea of settling in such a isolated and unwelcoming place made it a very scary and unforgiving wilderness for the pilgrims to begin building their settlements on. Something I noticed in William Bradford’s depiction of Cape Cod was the way he described God’s influence on the world. Instead of believing that God created the nature surrounding them, the pilgrims seemed to have viewed God as the one who guided them through the tumultuous, dangerous seas, and the one who will hopefully allow them to build settlements on the Cape. However, fifty years later Anne Bradstreet described the Massachusetts Bay Colony in a very different way. The title of her poem is “More Heaven than Earth”, meaning she viewed the area surrounding Cape Cod as a true demonstration of God’s power and beauty. It is important to note, however, that the season in which she was viewing the landscape was fall, no doubt an extremely picturesque time in the New England year. Not only were her perceptions altered because of her comfortable position in New England at the time (i.e. not having just arrived in New England in the winter, after being on a tiny boat for months crossing a treacherous sea, and having no place to stay after landing) but also because of the general scenery of which she depicted.

The second landscape was Utah and the focus centered around water. In the short story, “Water From a Stone”, the author conveys his belief that it is the lack of water that makes Utah so unique, picturesque, and desirable to live in, precisely because so few people venture there other than for tourism. Both this story and “Trail of Tears”, describe Transcendentalism, or the belief that one can access God or enlightenment through nature. In the second story, the man enjoys the desolate landscape as a sort of meditation sanctuary, where he can go to clear his mind. Both of these authors believe that the desolate landscape works in their favor, no matter how treacherous it may be. They beneficial to themselves, and that comes across in their writing.

Fantasia

Posted On September 3, 2009

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In the Disney movie, Fantasia, the sublime and pastoral themes of nature are explored. Interestingly enough, it seems in the movie, as in nature, that the most fascinating scenes are the ones that incorporate both the sublime and the pastoral. However, it was strange to see that the writers found a need to justify the sublime. It almost seemed that nature had to be something other than natural chaos. There had to be a reason for this sublime power and control had to be vested in someone, like the scene with Zeus controlling the thunderstorm. Also it seemed in the dinosaur story, that there was some type of control to the chaos because it was known that in the end, the dinosaurs would die and the world would be restored to a state fit to provide for humans. Also I found it interesting in the dinosaur seen that when the dinosaurs were dying, the first one to be shown falling down dead was the T-Rex, which was perhaps a comment on good versus evil. The most pastoral scene was the first one we watched. All of the seasons were controlled by the fairies, and it has nearly no chaos or any sublime power. During the time period that it was first shown (1940) World War II was going on, which perhaps hints to the reasoning behind having control over chaos.

Fantasia

Posted On September 1, 2009

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032455/

I choose a site that boasted encyclopedic knowledge on movies. This site had all of the facts about Fantasia, including a very interesting section on all of the “goofs” in the movie.

This article spoke a lot about the amount of work that went into making the movie. Disney used this thing called Fantasound, for the first and only time. It could only be used in the theatre, and was very difficult to use.

It also had a lot of really interesting trivia facts. For one, the animators nicknamed the Sorcerer “Yed Sid” which is Disney spelled backwards. They also secretly modeled him after Walt Disney himself. Mickey Mouse was given a more modern look in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. This short was released before other movies, so his modern look in Fantasia was not the first time people saw him like that. I think the most extraordinary fact I found was that Walt Disney and Leopold Stowkowski originally intended to have the film to incorporate as many senses as possible. They intended to have certain scents released into the theatre at separate times. They abandoned this idea because they thought it would be too difficult to clear the scent from the air in time for the next one.

Also, Dopey was originally supposed to be the star in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs‘s successful launch earlier. However, Disney wanted Mickey Mouse to be the star and decided he was better for the role.

The film is also ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Animation”.

First Assignment

Posted On September 1, 2009

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Animal: any living thing that isn’t a plant or bacteria or plankton or a singular cell- also when I hear the word animal, I tend to think of something that is a little more primal than the average pet

Nature: woods, ocean, desert, mountains; any landscape that isn’t manmade or altered by man; tends to be the most remote places in the world
Wild: 1. A synonym for nature 2. As an adjective, a person, place, or thing with animalistic or primal tendencies 3. Something that is unaltered and raw; something in its natural state; something that without “proper” social conduct
Human: 1. A species of animal that was able to civilize itself 2.Something that reminds one of a more civilized thing, allowing them to empathize with it
Morals: The generally accepted rules of conduct in a “civilized” society, often set by religious guidelines
Life: The time between birth and death of any living thing
Love: Something that species of animals feel for others that allows them to empathize and care for others

Hello world!

Posted On September 1, 2009

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